What happened: When he isn’t showing off his superhuman strength and durability as Luther Hargreeves in “The Umbrella Academy,” actor Tom Hopper is a busy and devoted husband and father. The British actor and his wife, Laura, have two children, daughter Truly Rose, 2, and son Freddie, 5. The couple has been sharing photos and videos on their Instagram accounts about parenting their son Freddie, who is autistic and nonspeaking. They recently spoke to PEOPLE magazine about their experience so other parents don’t feel alone. “It can be a very lonely time,” Hopper said.
My son has autism, and he amazes me every day. His brain just works in a different way. … The biggest thing for us was learning Freddie. We’ve had to figure out what works for him and what doesn’t. — Tom Hopper
The Frontlines: The Hoppers noticed Freddie wasn’t responding to his name being called around 18 months of age. “From there, the older he got, the more of a gap there was between him and other children his age, in terms of his progress,” Laura told People. An early autism diagnosis can help kids get the supports they need early on.
- Autism is a form of neurodiversity — autistic people may think, communicate and experience the world differently than a typical person, but autism is not a disorder
- Kids on the spectrum can benefit from early supports to help them cope with living in a typical world that can be overwhelming
- The average age of autism diagnosis in the U.S. is 4 years old, and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends screening as early as 18 months
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A Mighty Voice: Our contributor, Maria Garito, shared her challenges with parenting her nonspeaking child. “It’s hard enough being a parent in this fast paced world of juggling the impossible, but parenting a child with autism comes with an entire set of expectations I am nowhere near mastering. And when your child is non-verbal, every decision you make on their behalf becomes a game of trial and error. I can’t ask him what he thinks, because he can’t let me know beyond the few basic requests he has in relation to food and some activities.” You can submit your first-person story, too.
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Other things to know: The Hoppers received Freddie’s autism diagnosis just before his fifth birthday in March and began researching autism and taking courses to educate themselves. One thing they came to realize is they needed to learn their own son, what worked and what didn’t work for him. Every autistic person is different. For more insight, check out these other Mighty stories:
- What’s Different About Parenting a Child on the Autism Spectrum?
- 5 Things I Don’t Want to Hear as a Parent of a Child on the Autism Spectrum
- I Am a Proud, Black, Nonspeaking Young Man With Autism. My Life Matters.
Learn more: To learn more about people on the spectrum, visit the Autistic Self Advocacy Network’s website here.