As Skyler finishes his first 5 months in the mission field and now at the MTC, I can’t help but reflect on how far he has come.
When Skyler was little he was developing at how I would consider a typical child would be developing. Then what seemed to be out of nowhere things started changing. For example his speech totally digressed and he started speaking gibberish. But what was interesting was that his speech became more than gibberish. In fact, we called it “Skyler’s language” because he would repeat things that meant something to him. It just wasn’t “English”.
We were blessed to have him accepted into a special need preschool in addition to doing speech therapy for a period of time. I credit a lot to the preschool because I think without it; he wouldn’t have received the help he needed so desperately at that time. While we were going through these challenges we were also taking Skyler to different doctors as my gut was telling me something was “off”. My Mom sent me articles of Asperger’s syndrome and autism that she had read. After reading them I knew they were totally describing our son. The problem was, the doctors were totally stumped. They would tell us, “yes, something isn’t right, but we aren’t quite sure what it is”. They weren’t quite sure because he seemed really high functioning. As Skyler got older it was easier to see. Things like speech delay, walking on his toes (he still does this as much as we have tried for him not to), pacing back and forth or in circles for hours, quoting entire movies over and over again (after only seeing it once), stemming, all the “typical” things you see with kids with autism.
In 2nd grade he had a terrific and caring teacher of whom I still am very grateful for, saw all the signs that I pretty much already knew. (Mothers know best right?) After speaking with us, she played an important role in being his advocate in getting his proper diagnosis through the proper channels. He was evaluated again and was diagnosed with autism. We were told that because of his speech delay, he had high functioning autism versus Asperger’s (which is a form of HF autism). Gotta love the spectrum! This diagnosis allowed Skyler to receive the help he needed and received one on one aids at school.
Skyler didn’t know about his diagnosis until he was 12 years old. It wasn’t that we were ashamed about his diagnosis, not at all. We just didn’t want him to feel that he was limited because of it. We never wanted his diagnosis to be an excuse. However around the age of 12 he started to notice that he were “different” then his peers. He started getting teased and later even bullied. It was at this point that we knew we needed to tell him and explain that this doesn’t change who he is in anyway. He just had some extra challenges and sometimes has to work harder or adapt, unfortunately. But we made it clear that we will not allow his diagnosis to be an excuse for him. That he is capable of doing great things!
When Skyler was in 8th grade the bullying got to be ridiculous. I was inspired with a thought that Skyler and I needed to present to his entire 8th grade class on autism. What autism was, what it is like from Skyler’s view, how it is in his “world”. We created a script and for an entire day we went from one class to the next and shared this presentation. I can’t tell you what a difference this made. By the end of the day, Skyler had a girl come up to him and apologize for treating him so badly. That alone, made it all worth it. Things began to improve.
Skyler made great strides in high school. Since he was little he had a talent for computer animation and video. He joined Broadcast Technology and was a great asset to their team. By his senior year he was awarded the “Skyler Foxx Dedication Program Award” An award that was dedicated in his name and was to be awarded each year to a deserving student.
Skyler participated in Boy Scouts of America. This was a challenge for him both socially and physically. Despite those challenges and with some encouragement from his Dad and fantastic scout leaders, he has always stepped up and earned his advancements. Boy Scouts has definitely been a learning and growing experience for him. Skyler’s Eagle project was a video he filmed, produced and edited (in addition to recruiting friends to help) called “I can accomplish Great Things”. You can find it on YouTube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GXcpKRiszc One thing that I love about this project is that as long as it is viewed and shared it continues to be a blessing to others. (Please share!) Skyler also earned his Duty to God award. Duty to God is similar to getting your Eagle but in line with spiritual strength and priesthood duties.
After graduating from high school, he started attending Estrella Mountain Community College for a semester and then transferred to an online program called Pathways, through BYU-I. During the time he was taking his classes, he was also working full time doing video editing with a company and was able to work at home. Because of this job he was able to fund most of his mission.
Skyler always wanted to serve a mission. I remember when he received his diagnosis; I asked my Dad if he thought he would be able to serve a mission. One thing I have noticed with Skyler is that throughout all his life despite all the challenges that have been placed upon him, he has always come out of them on top, ready for the next one. He has learned that there will always be challenges that come our way; we just need to do our best and make ourselves better because of them.
Elder Foxx has been a shining example to me. When he received his mini-mission call it was a surprise for all of us. We had never heard nor known anyone who has served a mini-mission. And to be honest the process has been a challenge on our family. (A whole other story) But Skyler has had the faith that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. All that was important to him was that he was serving the Lord and to serve a full time mission. He has been serving for 5 months now and in just those 5 months I have seen such a growth. He has already blessed the lives of many and will bless many more. We have been witnesses of the blessings he has received directly from his Heavenly Father. I can testify that some of the challenges we were experiencing months prior are now blessings that I am cherishing. (Funny how that works.)
You look at Elder Foxx now and most would have no idea of his diagnosis let alone his challenges. He has come a long way from the little boy I used to wrestle during church wondering why I was even there, to wearing a nametag as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As he continues to serve in Gilbert and receives more training in the MTC, I have no doubt that he will continue to do great things and bless the lives of many more!