Saturday, April 26, 2008

Stricken with seizures and Autism, boy taught people a lot!

Though he couldn’t use words to communicate, Dylan Brewer’s life spoke volumes to others.
“He had this real gentleness about him — he never got angry,” said his mother Cathy at the family’s home in Campbell County. “Even though the world was so confusing to him, he had this good nature.”

That goodness and ever-constant smile in the midst of struggle still inspire family and friends.
Dylan died April 12 at age 19.

The oldest of three brothers, Dylan was developing normally as a 2-year-old, Cathy said, but then began having severe seizures and lost his ability to speak.

“We didn’t have a prognosis for him,” she said. “The doctors could never really find out what he had. The only thing they could say was that he had autism and a seizure disorder of an unknown origin.”

Cathy and Dylan’s father Craig believe an immunization Dylan received when he was 2 contributed to his condition. They said many other families across the country have faced similar situations and doctors are working on studies to prove or disprove a link between autism and immunizations.

The family was constantly in and out of hospitals due to the seizures, Cathy said, but it was a comfort to know his younger brothers only remembered the good times.

Though non-verbal, Dylan walked and always got into things, she laughed. The only true toy he ever connected to was a miniature sea turtle that he had held onto since he was 4.

“He kind of became known as the turtle guy,” said Cathy.

He occasionally turned lights on and off, swung from a leisure device in his room and he had many caregivers and teachers working with him.

But his life was reciprocating lessons of its own.

“They all said they learned something from him,” Cathy said. “They learned how to be patient, compassionate and how to see through people’s differences.”

Blake, Dylan’s 17-year-old brother, also found out valuable lessons Dylan knew.

“Dylan enjoyed the much simpler things in life that we have a harder time understanding because of our busy schedules,” Blake said at Dylan’s funeral. “He would many times throughout the day stop right in his tracks and just look around, observing everything surrounding him, in finest detail, just smiling.”

Dylan knew how to live in the moment, Cathy said, with perfect innocence.

In hopes of helping others through the research of autism, the family donated his brain to the Brain and Tissue Board for Developmental Disorders at the University of Maryland.

Cathy said it was his last gift.

Though his life had challenges, she said his spirit was never defeated.

“People that have intellectual disabilities still have a spirit,” she said. “We need to learn to see past their differences and see their spirits.

“That’s what I think Dylan taught us to do.”


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