With World Autism Day, April 2, kicking off World Autism Awareness Month for all of April, Team Titus wants to shine a light on a local 10-year-old boy named Titus who has endured a menagerie of different obstacles due to a rare genetic issue that also places him on the Autistic Spectrum.
“Good…cause I, you know, don’t have to go to public school,” answered Titus Hicks when asked what it was like living with autism. Titus attends school at Epic Charter Schools where he does school at home and meets with his teacher weekly. Otherwise, he does school on his own each day.
Titus does not let his differences get him down. In his mind, he is the same as every other child despite his experiences. He always looks on the bright side of life and whistles. Titus was born after a long delivery and named after their parents’ favorite comedian, Christopher Titus. Unlike most newborns, Titus had to stay a few extra days to be monitored. Needing “a few extra days” would turn out to be a pattern in his early life.
After being sick and needing some extra time to learn to walk and talk, and the addition of meeting with a very caring doctor out of Bixby Pediatrics, the parents Christopher and Sherri were determined to get some answers. Very quickly, Titus was starting to need physical, occupational, and speech therapy. For every issue, the parents learned the closer they were realizing there was something causing it all.
Titus, at 18 months old, was tested by a geneticist out of Oklahoma City and a diagnosis was issued. He had a rare duplication of Chromosome: P-15. Since geneticists have started to research and catalog all the new DNA disorders, Titus was one of the first male children to live through birth with his disorder.
Being a fairly unknown condition, the parents were bombarded with a list of possible side effects. Chris and Sherri were told he could have many possible issues or none at all.
The one thing they were sure of was that he would be somewhere on the Autistic Spectrum. They were also told that things could get better in some areas but create new problems elsewhere.
Autism was originally coined in 1908 describing a patient who had withdrawn into himself. As the field of child psychology grew, several started studying kids. The “autistic” kids had problems with social interactions, adapting to change, and sensitivity to stimuli. The kids however showed a good memory and intellectual potential. The children all had some speech issues with echoing people and repeating phrases and words.
The psychologists, however, did not always agree on aspects of the condition. Some thought it was learned behavior and symptoms of certain parenting styles. Some kids were also showing other characteristics, like speaking more “grown-up” or having some delays in motor skills development.
The disorder was not well-defined nor understood by the public. Many thought those with autism were mentally disabled or psychotic. In the 80s, research bloomed and awareness was given a priority. This allowed the different fields to come to the conclusion that autism was caused by differences neurologically or genetically. In recent years the condition known as Asperger’s Syndrome was rolled into autism and created what is known as “the spectrum.”
After doing their research, Titus was given a plan to get through life where he continued his different therapies and started going to an early childhood school program at two years old to increase his social interaction. He very quickly learned that he absorbed information, listening to his teacher and watching educational videos on YouTube. He was able to identify shapes that his peers and older classmates didn’t know and he leaped ahead.
Sadly another problem was discovered, he was getting sick a lot and would catch pneumonia, RSV, or the flu every time. After conducting some swallow tests, specialists determined he needed a feeding tube for his liquid intake. He had to deal with the tube for three years and was unable to join in many of the activities of his friends.
Despite his condition, Titus didn’t let the feeding tube get him down; he began to become known as Flash Titus around the hospital ward, cause Titus believed he was super-fast like the Scarlet Speedster.
Titus, now tube-free, has made it his mission to bring awareness to Autism for himself and his little sister. In 2016, his sister, Serinity, was born and was tested right away to check for genetic abnormalities. She was found to have a completely different issue with a deletion of the Chromosome: Q-16. This meant that she too would be on the spectrum. Titus has protected and helped his baby sister from the beginning.
This year, the Hicks Family started a team for the annual “Autism PieceWalk” in Tulsa in honor of Titus to aid in bringing acceptance and awareness for those in our state who are autistic.
According to Autism Oklahoma, “The Piece Walk is the largest autism event, largest collective autism voice in Oklahoma, and Autism Oklahoma’s primary source of annual funding.”
For those who wish to join Team Titus or donate toward his Team visit piecewalk.org.
There is a donation jar at Mark’s Snack Shack—a business that took an entire day and donated 10% of their sales to Team Titus.
In addition, The Purple Rabbit Emporium and Crossroads Market is selling specially-designed jewelry. The crafty Team Titus jewelry maker, Stacey LaMontagne, stated that a percentage of all her sales will be going to Team Titus.
The family would also like Sapulpa to keep an eye out for other events in the near future. The Piece Walk will be on May 14 at River West Festival Park in Tulsa at 6:30 pm.