Special Report: Living With Autism

Local Stateline Resident Overcomes Autism Challenges

South Beloit - In the ABC drama, 'The Good Doctor,' Shaun Murphy is a first year surgical resident at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital.

Murphy is played by actor Freddie Highmore, who portrays Murphy as someone who is an autistic savant.

An autistic savant is an individual with autism who has extraordinary skills.

Highmore acknowledges the role cannot speak for all people with autism.    

"Shaun can never represent everyone with autism," says Highmore. "It would be silly and a offensive thing to suggest that this one singular individual is going to be representative of a plethora of people."

People living with autism here in the stateline like Quinn Partridge.

On this day, Partridge is delivering meals with the South Beloit Meals On Wheels program, along with his supporter Terri Henninger.

Recently turning 25, Quinn's autism makes him non-verbal.

Which is one of several symptoms that led his mother, Wendy Partridge to take him to a specialist and him being diagnosed with autism at the age of two.

Wendy having never gone through this before said, "It was kind of an outer body experience because you just start to think, what does this mean?"

As a young mom, Wendy Partridge thought she would have help from others, but she quickly realized many people did not understand autism.

"Then I started to realize pretty quickly that there really weren't people that were available to help," says Partridge. "There were caring people, but they really didn't know what was needed."

According to Autism Speaks, one in 45 children aged three through 17 have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Which means 2% of children in the U.S. are living with autism.

That statistic is higher than the CDC's estimate of one in 68 children having autism.

Wendy wouldn't let statistics like that stop her.

Whether if it was going to therapy, reading books about autism, or reaching out to schools, she made sure Quinn would have a chance to be treated as a normal kid.

To help Quinn achieve his goals, she came up with a planner to help organize all the steps it would take.

It starts with, what's happening right now, indicating where you are at the beginning of your goal.

Then transitions to who are the people needed to help you reach your goal.

Then lastly what do you have to do and how long will it take to achieve that goal.

Years of using that plan, allowed Quinn to move into his own home with the help of his supporter, Teri Henninger.

"Just the freedom for him to be able to be his own person is amazing," says Henninger. "Think about it, to have own time by yourself when you really didn't think you'll really have it."

Henninger visits him Monday through Friday, and when she comes to his house, she is quickly reminded, he's just a normal 25-year-old guy.

"By god you should see this place, it looks like a frat somedays when I walk in," says Henninger. "Between the DVDs, CDs and the food, you'd swear to god that he had a big ol frat party."

Quinn uses a letter board and sounds out words to communicate.

Even though he doesn't talk, that doesn't stop him from wanting to meet new people.

So much so, that he writes down everyone's name that he has met.

"When he meets people he'll come right back if we're out and about," says Henninger. "He'll come back and write their name on a piece of paper."

On a piece of paper in the video included the name of everyone Quinn wants to invite to his birthday party.

Names are added each day, because he doesn't want to leave anyone out.

In many ways, Quinn is leading a normal life, heating up food, recycling trash, and he sometimes does part-time work.

He can be very shy initially around others and act out when he gets upset.

"There's times he gets upset and he gets very loud at stores or something like that," says Henninger.

Autism does limit Quinn in some ways, Henninger is there to help him get around and get through his day.

But, he and his family don't let autism define him and Henninger says others shouldn't either.

"Just don't judge, I don't think anybody should judge,"says Henninger. "I think everyone should get to know somebody before, even if you don't and you're uncomfortable with it, just listen."

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