Travis Carroll was born a healthy, normal functioning child on 8/19/2003. He developed as any child would but shortly after being vaccinated at 15 months, he began to run a high fever. Thinking he had a virus, his mother, Stacy cared for her sick child not knowing her son’s life was about to be forever changed. As with many parents, at first she was in denial. Within less than 2 months, Travis's normally developing verbal skills diminished, he began mumbling, walking on his toes and doing things children his age wouldn’t normally do. Concerned, his mother had him checked by his pediatrician in which her concerns were quickly dismissed. A year and a half later, at 3 and half, he was showing every sign of autism and an alternate doctor immediately diagnosed him with autism and ADHD. With limited knowledge of autism, Stacy now had to learn exactly what it is and how to live with it.
The effects of Travis’s autism became more evident when he entered school. Although he has limited verbal skills, he has to be prompted to respond because it takes him a while to process things. In kindergarten, placed in a typical class, he was labeled a disruptive child because of the noises he would make; getting loud and extremely high pitched when in a group setting. Continuing to struggle through first grade, he was frequently sent home. Rather than being recognized that it was more his inability to communicate and handle large group settings, they focused on the behavior not the cause. When he was 5, medication was suggested but Stacy tried to avoid giving him hoping instead behavior modification through therapy might be a solution. By the age of 7 however, he became so aggressive, they opted for the medication to control his behavior. He takes his aggression out in ways that cause damage to himself and things around him. Meltdowns are not uncommon. He became so aggressive causing damage to furniture, walls, and mattresses and himself, that medication seemed the only option. Stacy has had to replace his floor several times. Eventually, it became evident that the medication actually made his behavior worse. The school he currently attends is 45 minutes away, but they do not offer Travis the beneficial ABA therapy. It is the only school he can go with any type of therapy offered a few times a week, but it's not consistent. The closest resource for this much needed therapy is located in Winston Salem, NC.
Daily life became a struggle. Things normal things to you and me became the biggest ordeal for them. A simple trip to the grocery store would be so much stimulation, that Travis would begin stemming and covering himself with a blanket to avoid everyday environmental factors such as noise and crowds as these would trigger his autistic behavior. To those of us who are aware of autism, we can recognize and understand Stacy's plight. But to those who have no idea of the disability, people may think its lack of discipline and are quick to judge rather than understand Travis’s journey in life. Stacy his is full time caregiver and with Travis 24 hours a day. It is an arduous task most of us cannot even imagine.
In addition to external stimulation being a factor, Travis suffers from severe joint issues and although he can walk, anything longer than 10 minutes at a time bothers his joints too much. His joints aren't necessarily deteriorating but the daily living is harsh on his body. Walking into a store, for example, can cause Travis to have meltdowns because of external stimuli. Now that Travis is 11 and weighs 110 pounds, it is nearly impossible for his mother to lift and carry him on a daily basis as Travis would like her to do. She looks for a public wheelchair when she goes into any store, but they are not always available. Being in a wheelchair and being confined provides Travis a calming affect while easing the associated joint pain that comes from him walking. Sometimes she must pull over on the way home and immediately apply joint compression therapy, often doing this multiple times throughout the day because his joints are in so much pain.
At home Travis communicates with his family via a piece of paper on the refrigerator. Many times he does this rather than verbalizing his thoughts. He is an excellent speller and can spell anything. For example, his favorite place is Burger King. He writes the words Burger King or BK, and then point to it until Stacy acknowledges his request. He also loves the Dollar Tree or DT. If someone moves the paper, he becomes flustered and is quick to replace it. He loves books, and always carries some with him. He enjoys books with sound, especially animals. He knows all of the planets; Saturn being his favorite. Travis also enjoys Disney and Pixar movies. Beauty and the Beast and Jungle book are his favorite; watching these movies provides him comfort.
He identifies the things he wants by colors. When he says the word green, Stacy will ask, “What do you want?” He'll repeat the word green over and over. Green signified a particular food in the freezer that happens to come in a green box. One of Stacy’s favorite stories occurred about 6 months ago. He came into the kitchen, pointing to his room making noises. She asked what he needed and he said “battery” while pointing toward his room. He walked in front of her and then said “yellow battery” and became agitated when she didn't couldn’t figure out what yellow battery meant. She held him to provide comfort him as she continued to ascertain what Travis needed. She kept asking him what needs a yellow battery, and then he said “dark.” He knew the light needed power, hence the battery, and that the light was yellow. He needed a light bulb. Yellow battery, of course!
Travis has an older brother Sean who is a senior in high school. Sometimes we forget the siblings. Stacy was in tears as she spoke of her older son, expressing her guilt at not being able to give her older son the attention he so deserves. Travis’s stepfather, Rusty Spears, is a pastor and a supervisor at a local truck manufacturing plant. Even though he works two jobs, and live paycheck to paycheck, they struggle financially to make ends meet. Stacy says, “I am blessed to have such an incredible support system in my family. My older son, husband and mom are amazing to Travis.”
The care that Stacy provides for Travis can be emotionally and physically draining. Providing this wheelchair for Travis and his family will dramatically improve his quality of life and ease some of the physical strain on both Travis and Stacy in the future. It is Project Reover’s honor to gift this wheelchair to Travis and his family.