Terry and Cheryl Taft knew their son, Justin, would be resilient from the very beginning. Justin was born on September 26, 1994 with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck six times, compromising his oxygen supply. Luckily, there were no further complications, and Terry and Cheryl were able to take their son home. Justin was a happy, healthy baby, growing and developing as he should. But, when Justin was around 15 months old, things began to change.
Justin's language and social development seemed to be regressing. He struggled to make eye contact with his family and would often times be in his "own little world." When Justin's communication, hearing and speech did not improve, Terry and Cheryl knew they needed to take further action. Before Justin's third birthday, he was evaluated at Blank Children's Hospital by a speech therapist and a psychologist. The diagnosis: autism.
"All the plans we had for our son completely changed," said Cheryl. "As our psychologist explained, it's like planning to go on a trip to Italy, but you unexpectedly land in Holland; the trip will be much different than expected, but it will still be a lovely place. She was right."
Terry and Cheryl could not imagine their life any other way. Justin, now a senior in high school, enjoys everything a senior in high school should, from pizza to movies, to spending time with his two brothers, Jeremy and Jared. Justin's working hard at school too, rarely missing a day and thriving in his special education classes. He also got his first job, a job which he loves, last year at the Christian Opportunity Center.
Yet, a few years ago, Justin had a new challenge - Alopecia Areata, a disease that causes persons to lose patches of hair. At first, Justin lost only eye lashes, but then, he started losing large patches of hair on his scalp. Through it all, Justin takes everything in stride. He remains positive and always works hard to accomplish new things.
"We admire and love Justin as he is," said Cheryl. "He has taught us so much about the true meaning of life that we may not have ever known otherwise. He's an inspiration and brings us so much happiness in each of our lives."