SHERRILL, N.Y. — Alexander Brown swings back and forth on a makeshift hammock bolted to a wooden beam in his living room. The swaying seems to soothe the otherwise uneasy 14-year-old. His mother gazes at him from the couch and their eyes briefly connect.
“I would love to be in Alexander’s head just for a few hours,” said Diane Brown, her head slumped against her hand. “He’s having a hard time going through puberty right now.”
Alexander is confused, moody and frustrated – all very typical for a teen during adolescence. But Alexander’s transition is especially difficult for the Browns, a family of six in Sherrill, N.Y., because he is severely autistic.
Puberty is causing chaos in Alexander’s once-predictable world. He can’t talk and struggles to express himself. “He’s angry and he’s sad . . . and he doesn’t understand why,” Brown said. “I truly feel for him.”
Alexander, the third of four children, rarely sleeps through the night. He gets up at all hours to wander the kitchen, take a shower or throw a tantrum. He’s begun lashing out physically.
Brown, 45, is exhausted. She averages four hours of sleep a night and powers through most days with the help of Red Bull. Continue reading