Keyboard gives Fishers boy with autism a voice
For more than a dozen years, a couple in Fishers struggled to communicate with their child who has autism.
Jeremy Stutz couldn't talk, so his parents just guessed what he liked and what he wanted.
But suddenly, everything changed and the Stutz family discovered a bright teenager who can read and write, hidden behind the autism.
The Stutz family's home video could have come from any home. A wide-eyed toddler just learning how to talk. But one day, Jeremy Stutz just stopped talking.
"When he was 20 months old, we feel like we lost him," said Jeremy's mother, Laura.
Jeremy was diagnosed with autism.
"You're just bound and determined, we're going to get him recovered. And then each year that goes by, you kind lose a little hope," said Jay Stutz, Jeremy's father.
It was hard not to at times, parenting a child they just couldn't reach.
"Screaming, biting, kicking out windshields. He was so sad," Laura said. "We were told by a professional he will never improve and we should focus on life skills."
"We kept thinking we'd get this miracle and he'd be totally restored, but we didn't know what was inside," Jay said.
Until, after 12 years of not knowing where their son had gone, a simple keyboard brought Jeremy home.
"I am just Jeremy now," he typed out on a iPad.
"We lost him and it's like now we found him," Laura said.
All just by tapping letters, using something called supported typing therapy.
"I have a voice now," Jeremy said through the iPad.
The once silent world Jeremy seemed sentenced to live in forever is gone.
"He was always there. Looking and watching and listening," Jay said.
They had no idea, though, until they took Jeremy to Syracuse University to try supported typing.
"It was amazing to see him communicate, to see his words come out," Laura said.
Suddenly, the child who had been an angry stranger to them for so long wasn't anymore.
"It's funny. One of the first things he typed was, 'You think I'm okay?', crying," Jay said. "And he will be. He will be okay. He types that over and over now, 'I'm okay.'"
For Jeremy's parents, it's like they're meeting their oldest child for the very first time.
"For the first time, we asked him what he wanted for Christmas and he said he wanted some Beats headphones," Jay said.
"He has said over and over, 'Everyone thought I was dumb. I am smart. I am smart.' And that was his biggest concern that everybody thought he was dumb," Laura said.
Instead, his parents learned, somehow in these past 12 years, Jeremy had learned to read.
"He loves sing-along songs with captions underneath and we think that might have been how he taught himself to read," Jay said.
"We know his likes, his dislikes, his sense of humor, things he wants to do. He wants to help other kids with autism learn to communicate. That is one of his goals," Laura said.
Suddenly, the young man who once seemed lost to autism may have found his life's path through it and into a brave new world Jeremy's family hopes will see him for who he truly is - a person with hopes and dreams, joys and sorrows, good days and bad days, just like the rest of us.
Facilitated communication, or supported typing, has many critics in the medical field, who say the words ultimately come from the helper.
But family like the Stutzes say it's clear to them the words and thoughts are Jeremy's. The first thing he wanted for Christmas was that good pair of headphones.