Autism brings learning opportunities, challenges for Shelton family

Autism brings learning opportunities, challenges for Shelton family. (NTV News)

1 in every 68 children in the united states are born with autism, according to the CDC.

But imagine having three autistic children under one roof.

For the Thibodeau family, their morning starts just like any other family.

But for a family living with three autistic children in one household, it can be tough.

Autism spectrum disorder or ASD is a developmental disability that affects one's ability to interact with others.

"With our kids, there's no in the middle it's either high functioning or low functioning," said Clifford Thibodeau.

Shelby is 19, Jimmy is 13, and Cheyenne, 11 - each of them are on different ends of the spectrum.

Shelby and Cheyenne have Asperger syndrome.

"A high-functioning form of autism meaning that besides a couple of little quirks - he seems fairly normal, but he does have those things. And our daughter is probably the same way. She's probably the mildest," Clifford said.

And then there's 13-year-old Jimmy "who is low-functioning. He's minimally verbal. Obviously you can see the hand flapping and what not," he said.

His behavioral traits have been the toughest for parents Clifford and Carrie to handle.

"He is a handful, especially when he has a meltdown," Clifford said.

With Jimmy getting older and bigger, his meltdowns are just as much of a mental struggle for him, as it is a physical one for his parents - sometimes turning into a wrestling match.

"With Jimmy, discipline is almost - I don't want to say non-existent, but we have to be careful how we discipline him because a lot of times if he's having a meltdown he just gets angrier," Clifford said.

Pulling on clothes and hair, ripping shirts, even opening car doors when the car is moving.

And when any of their kids have a meltdown, public stares are sure to follow.

"We're quick to politely educate them and say well he's not just a kid who is acting up - he's got a reason for it," Clifford said.

Carrie says although going out in public is a little more strenuous on their family, it doesn't hold them back.

"You're right it is easier," Carrie said. "It's easier to just call up and say, 'nope, I'm sorry we can't make it to the wedding. Or nope, I'm sorry we can't make it to the family reunion. Christmas this year isn't going to happen because Jimmy just can't do it.' But you know what? That's not fair to the family. That's not fair to them."

The Thibodeau family says it's a continuous learning process that they'll be going through forever.

Thursday on Autism Speaks, find out more about the struggles those living with autism face and the resources that are available to those families.

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