When Dylan Wooden of Sterling was diagnosed with nonverbal autism when he was four, his mother Annette had never even heard of the disorder.
“His occupational therapist asked me, ‘Have you ever seen the movie Rain Man?’” Wooden said. “But in that movie, the man with autism talked, and he communicated. Dylan just never got it.”
An estimated one-third of people with autism are nonverbal, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Dylan is now 20 and a high school graduate, yet like many people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) — especially those who are nonverbal — he has struggled to find a job.
This led Wooden to found Dylan’s Mom, a nonprofit that seeks to provide support for families of autistic people and educate those unfamiliar with ASD.
“Our kids are the most amazingly complicated human beings in the world,” she said. “I want to show people coming to our meetings that these children are just the same as us.”
Dylan’s Mom, founded in 2018, holds monthly meetings for parents of young adults with ASD. These meetings often feature guest speakers, including special education employees at Loudoun County Public Schools.
“There has to be more families that feel how I feel. Graduation time is an exciting time for parents, but when you have a child on the autism spectrum, it hits you that college is not an option and employment is not an option,” Wooden said.
The CDC found that in 2018 approximately one in 59 children were diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. One in 37 boys were diagnosed, while one in 151 girls were determined to be somewhere on the spectrum.
Dylan's Mom holds fundraisers with the ultimate goal to start a local business that will employ young adults with ASD.
“We want to open a bakery that employs kids on the spectrum. It’ll be a great thing for Loudoun County because we don’t have anything like that,” Wooden said.
Those interested in Dylan’s Mom can visit its Facebook page at Facebook.com/dylansmommm.