Adoption wasn’t the only A-word that changed my life: A look into our family’s Autism Story

Guest blog post by Fran Hines, Proud Father of a son with Autism

Being grateful for the life we were given, my wife, Jeannie, and I decided to do some foster care work and try to help some kids who were having a tough time with life. We took in a 4-week old infant. They told us it would be temporary so the family could get back on their feet. As time went on we started to notice that something was not right. Our son, Colton, made no sounds and seemed to be disengaged from the world around Him. We saw doctor after doctor and all the experts. He was eventually dually diagnosed as having fetal alcohol syndrome and Autism. Knowing nothing about either of these conditions We simply forged ahead trying to do what we could to help this little guy. Medical intervention was difficult at best. Educational considerations were another unknown. There were very few people willing to help. Every single day was a fight for something. His behavior became violent and unpredictable making it hard to do anything. Therapy and medication seemed useless. We were emotionally drained and weren’t sure if we could continue.

During all this chaos we wrestled with the idea of permanent adoption. I was frightened by this prospect. Things aren’t going so good, will it get better or worse? The absolute undeniable fact was that this kid was with us for a reason. Divine intervention according to my wife. We came to the conclusion that for some reason it was our job to move forward and not abandon him as others had done. At 4-years-old he legally became Colton Francis Hines. With newfound strength and determination, we did everything we could do to help him be a part of a world that is often unkind to those who are different: new doctors, special schools and all the love and understanding he could handle.

Today, he is a vibrant and engaging 21-year-old. Active in Special Olympic sports. He holds a full-time job where he does very well. He will never live on his own but has the means to support himself. It was important to us that he not be a burden to anyone when we are no longer here. He often has a difficult time understanding how society operates but so do I. Today I am a proud father of a very special boy. He has changed me in ways that are unexplainable.

I am currently the Autism and Special Needs coordinator for the Monmouth County Sheriff’s office in New Jersey. For the past 5 years, I have trained thousands of police and other first responders about our kids. I am the project coordinator for Project Lifesaver with over 170 active participants. I am a guest speaker at many civic and government agencies. We started a foundation, Colton and Friends, where we support educational and recreational opportunities for children on the spectrum. I live in the world of Autism and love it. I have been blessed with a new understanding of love. I’ve been given incredible patience and understanding. We have experienced some awful lows and wonderful highs. Sometimes we thought we wouldn’t make another day but we did. Many people have said what a wonderful thing we did for that child. I am the only one who knows what that child did for me.