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POAC Autism Services

Somebody Up There Likes Me

At five years old my son Christopher was only able to say three words- Rooster, Ketchup and No.   I always joked that they were not the best words in the world, but we were so happy to have them.  Chris, at the time with no functional communication and severe problem behavior, was a handful to say the least.  Today, at twenty-four, he is a complete joy and never stops talking.

Late for Church

So, picture the five of us running late for church –  Chris’s mom, myself and our three small children. Chris was five and his siblings were three and one at the time.  It was Easter season, so the church was packed with hundreds of people.  We walked through the doors and stood against the back wall with our three kids.

Room Upfront

The only seats available in the entire building were in the very front pew, and we had no intention or desire to sit there.  We were perfectly content to stand in the very back, just in case the need arose for a speedy getaway.  The usher saw us struggling with the children and gave us the sign to move up the main isle and sit in the front pew.   I politely waved my head no, but he kept on signaling us to move up front, and I kept on shaking my head no thank you.   Not accepting my denial, the well-meaning usher walked down the aisle to personally escort us to the front pew.

The Longest Walk Ever

So, I bowed my head and the five of us walked the green mile to front pew.  I remember literally praying to God to let Chris be good, please be good.  I figured we were in His house, so He must be listening I laughed to myself.  So, we took our seats and brought out our little “Christopher-be-good bag” filled with his favorite things.

Ask a Question…

Normally our priest and his sermon were very restrained, and I would find myself checking my watch to see how much longer service, and frankly Chris, would last – But not today.  Today we had a visiting missionary and he was the old fashioned “Fire and Brimstone” evangelical type of priest.  Very animated and passionate in his sermon, he shouted to the congregation, “ARE YOU WILLING TO PUT GOD BEFORE YOURSELF?”   Well, Chris jumps up in the pew and screams at the top of his lungs, “NO WAY!”   The priest went on, “ARE YOU WILLING TO PUT GOD BEFORE YOUR JOB” and again Chris jumps up and screams “NO WAY!”  The priest asked five different questions and got the same five answers from Chris, “NO WAY!”

Heaven and Hell

By this time half the church was laughing out loud and all the while I was rubbing Chris’s back saying, “Good talking, good talking.”  You see, this was the first time ever that Chris spoke two words together. I was overjoyed, but still thought I was going to hell for allowing my son to heckle a priest.  We have come so far since that day and I cannot wait to see what incredible gains my amazing son will continue to make every single day.


Gary Weitzen

POAC Executive Director

Gary Weitzen, the Executive Director of POAC Autism Services, also holds a certified law enforcement instructor title in New Jersey and has 20 years of experience in risk management. Besides managing POAC, he’s spent 15 years teaching life skills to adults with autism. A notable autism advocate, Gary has been featured in major media networks and has a son with autism, Christopher.