AUSTIN - April is Autism Awareness Month as one in every 68 children in the United States have this disorder -- including a boy in Austin who continues to fight for his life through multiple hurdles.
Tejas Clinton was born on Feb. 9, 2005 with autism. His mom, Rebecca Clinton, already has an older child with autism as well, except Tejas' autism has caused him to be nonverbal -- but it hasn't stopped him from having a big personality.
"He's so silly, Clinton said. "He's such a light and such a joy to everyone. His spirit is just amazing."
About 11 months ago, Tejas' dad noticed something on his leg.
"His dad was changing his pull up one night, and he noticed a swelling of the knee," Clinton said. "When he touched it, Tejas started yelling out, 'Ow! Ow! Ow!' I knew it wasn't right."
So Tejas' parents took him into the doctor to get this swelling checked out, initially thinking it wasn't going to be too serious.
"The doctor said not to worry about it, really," Clinton said. "Just give him some Advil and maybe in a couple of days it will go away."
However, the swelling didn't go away. So Tejas eventually had to get an X-ray of his leg, which revealed he had high-grade osteosarcoma and a tumor in his leg.
"It went from 0 to 120 in about two days," Clinton said.
Due to Tejas' osteosarcoma, he had to have a port put in his chest as well as a biopsy done on his leg. He also went through three different types of chemotherapy during this process. Nine weeks later, he had his leg amputated.
"You feel like you're not ever going to smile again," Clinton said. "Right when they wheeled him away, I had a moment."
Since Tejas has autism, his mom wanted to find an effective way to explain and show him why he lost his leg.
"We were really terrified how we were going to teach him that they were going to take his leg," Clinton said.
That's where Tejas' teacher comes into play. Wendy Lesage is a Functional Communication Classroom teacher at Forest North Elementary School. She came up with a detailed photo book that would show him the before and after of his surgery. She said she didn't want to sugercoat the topic -- she wanted to give it to Tejas straight.
"His spirit is just amazing," Lesage said. "He has been the same Tejas through it all."
Tejas' mom said he wasn't able to do a limb salvage due to his autism. The therapy would have been too difficult for Tejas to go through. However, as Tejas has adjusted to having one leg, Rebecca Clinton said it has ended up being easier than she thought.
"To be honest, he doesn't miss his leg," Clinton said. He knows that's what was wrong. And he's OK. He's known for being Superman."
While Tejas' mom said she has her good days and bad days, she said Tejas has remained the same crazy kid -- no matter his state.
"Here he is, as An 11 year old in a wheelchair with no hair and one leg," Clinton said. "He couldn't care less. He's been amazing the whole time."
And Tejas' battle isn't over. The cancer has returned after a scan from this past March revealed the cancer had now moved to his lungs.
"It's bad," Clinton said. "It's not good."
Yet, Tejas' story isn't over and it never will be. This kid has a huge heart and has a mother who will never give up on him...no matter what the next challenge is.
"We don't have a good outlook for later but tomorrow looks great and that's how we have to live out life," Clinton said. "We're going to love every day together.
Tejas is going to get the chance to work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and get his wish granted later this month. His room is going to be transformed with new flooring, furniture and his ceiling will be turned into a solar system.
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