Teen with autism encourages others on the spectrum

HOUSTON – Marshall Jones is 14 years old. He likes making lattes, wearing bow ties and he's autistic.

When asked what he wants other kids with autism to know, he said, “You don't have to struggle with your life if you can't work your brain out.”

He explains he sometimes gets frustrated when he can't do something, but his mother, Lynn Clouser, focuses on how far he's come.

“He's doing so many things independently and that's only because I’ve put in the work,” Clouser explained. “Parents that get the diagnosis, I say if you're not tired in the beginning, you're not doing enough.”

She encourages families to enroll in speech therapy and specialized schools, since that’s what made a dramatic difference in Marshall’s life.

Marshall currently attends Launch Academy in Sugar Land.

For families on the spectrum, Clouser said the biggest challenge is by far the cost.

“Autism is expensive! It's really expensive. Especially if you're giving a child what they really, really need and you're being proactive,” Clouser said. “Your co-pays, your doctor visits, your medications, your private schooling, your respite care, you name it, but it comes with the journey.”

With this month being Autism Awareness Month. Clouser is using it as a time to call businesses and encourage them to include kids on the spectrum in their services. For example, she got Nordstrom at the Galleria to host a shoe-tying event for people on the spectrum.

“Marshall, with his delay in fine motor skills, it was tougher for him. In fact, his friends were tying his shoes and I was embarrassed for him when he was in third and fourth grade,” she said about Marshall taking longer than other kids to learn to tie his shoes.

Now, he doesn't just know how to tie his shoes... He can do all kinds of things! At Launch Academy, he makes coffee and lattes and sells them through a school program. He even has an ambitious goal for the next year.

“This year I want to start my own bow tie business!” Marshall said.

His love of fashion will serve his future well, and in the meantime, for anyone just dealing with a diagnosis, he says “Anyone with autism can be not perfect but special."

The shoe tying event at the Galleria Nordstrom is on April 27 from 8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. It will be in the children's shoe department and is free for people on the spectrum.

To learn more about everything from financial hurdles, navigating insurance, which schools offer services and a lot more visit the Parent's Guide to Autism at Click2houston.com/health/a-parent-s-guide-to-autism-from-kprc2.