WASHINGTON - Stuart Spielman is the Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Autism Speaks. But if you ask him, he'll just tell you he's Zack's dad. Zack has an autism spectrum disorder - but he doesn't let that define him. FOX 5's Shawn Yancy learned more about the Spielman family when she met with Stuart, his wife Mona, and Zack.
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Sweet, gentle, and joyful are some of the words Mona Spielman uses to describe her son. "It's been a journey with Zach but I think we've tried to make it a positive journey for our family," she said.
Mona told us that Zach helps her with errands, loves to eat out, enjoys traveling and loves his music. He also has a terrific brother who in a big part of his life.
"Without Zach my life would have gone in a very different direction." his father Stuart said. "I think I would have just been another Washington lawyer focused on some very small matter that I convinced myself was very important. But Zach made me see a different world."
"I knew that there would be an adjustment, but the first feeling I had was - I don't know what to do. And that was a scary feeling…I think a feeling that a lot of parents share," Stuart said about first learning of Zach's diagnosis.
As the Spielman family has taken their journey with Zack from childhood to adolescent to adulthood, they wanted to make sure that their son always had a good education and always was a part of the community.
"Zach is different than some kids," Stuart said, "But that difference shouldn't mean that he's separate from the community." They always take Zack out with them and always included him in activities with his brother.
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"I want them to be strong advocates for their kids, and to be fearless, and to insist their kids get every opportunity that a kid without a disability might get," Stuart told us when asked about advice for families raising children on the autism spectrum.
"They should be talking to schools; they should be talking to employers; they should be talking with everyone to make sure their kids are not relegated to a second place position in life."
Stuart said Zach will always be there for him – and likewise, he will always be there for Zach.
"Autism doesn't define him. It's part of who he is but he is a 21-year-old young man."
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