Rick and Cindy Stokes were alerted to an unusual situation around four months into Cindy's pregnancy when doctors determined that the fetal protein was too high. An emergency ultra sound revealed that they were going to be having twins. The ultra sound also produced another alarming find; the newly discovered child's brain was developing way too fast and was not developing correctly. The doctors told Rick and Cindy that they had two options: to carry on with the pregnancy and give birth to a severely mentally and physically handicapped child or to terminate the pregnancy. Defying the odds, Rick and Cindy decided to not terminate the pregnancy. Josh Stokes and his twin sister Amanda were due in February but were born in an emergency Caesarean Section on December 29th, 1990. Even during birth, there were complications. Joshua weighed 4 lbs and was a lifeless shell; not a single sound. Amanda weighed 3.5 lbs and was not breathing. Doctors saved the twins but gave Rick and Cindy a grim outlook for Josh. They said that he would never do anything by himself and he would always need someone to assist him with even the most basic daily tasks.
Specialists and doctors could not began to describe what was wrong with Josh. Cindy had been doing research for years and came a crossed autism. Cindy brought this information to a psychologist and Josh was diagnosed with Autism around the age of 7, which was a few years after that his parents were divorced. Cindy was determined to prove the doctors wrong and to raise three kids on her own and define all of the odds she faced. She would make up fun games for Josh as a method of therapy, which worked wonders. It wasn't until Josh was a little older that he asked his mom, “Mom, why am I different from everyone else?” that he learned that he was autistic.
In middle school Josh got involved in sports, which dramatically increased his development. He learned to better social skills with his peers and began to discover a confidence in himself and his abilities. Josh's favorite sport was wrestling but he also participated in football and track and field. His grades improved, he made new friends, had many relationships, and was even offered athletic scholarships for wrestling and track. He graduated from Linden High School in 2010 with a 3.46 GPA. His dream was to wrestle in college and to become a special education teacher to help other children with autism.
Josh was contacted by one of his former teachers because she had a daughter who was recently diagnosed with Autism and was told that Josh loved to talk about his experience with the condition. Josh was very excited. After the meeting was over, Josh got a message from the teacher on Facebook saying how much comfort and understanding that she had gained from their talk. Not long after, while attending Eastern Michigan University, Josh took a class which gave him his first real opportunity to tell his story to an audience. To his surprise, he received a standing ovation. The thrill this gave him ignited a small flame that made him want to spread his experience to larger audiences.
Rick and Cindy saw the excitement in Josh and began to encourage Josh to pursue this new passion. They recognized that Josh's gift was special because unlike the majority of people with autism, Josh could express his feelings and emotions and describe information that science and textbooks couldn't. Cindy began to help Josh write a book. “Looking through the eyes of the Puzzle” will give readers a rare glimpse through the eyes of someone who is autistic, in great detail, using the examples and stories of Josh’s life.
If you or someone you know is involved with caring for a person with Autism, we encourage you to attend one of Josh's lectures and buy his book. We are certain that you and your loved one will benefit from the clear picture that Josh paints with his words about the heart and mind of those who struggle with this condition.
Josh now works with the Autism Alliance of Michigan as an Autism Trainer Consultant, Oakland University, and speaks at Eastern Michigan University. If you would like to hear josh speak, click on the tab below to see open speaking events around you!
Check out "Perceptions" by Athens Creek's Taylor Walls and Chas Burtchett
Written by Josh Stokes, Mike Vandeville, and Lonny Ray