At the very young age of 18 months, Giovanni and Carmelina Durocher were diagnosed with Autism. Today, they are two rambunctious 13 year olds who love life and are both different in every way. The twins grew up with two very loving and caring parents who continue to teach and learn every day. Gio and Lina are homeschooled due to issues in mainstream public schools and according to their mother Donna, it has “benefited everyone.” No one believed she could homeschool the twins when they were in the third grade. Donna proved them wrong when the twins had completed two and a half grade levels in just six months after pulling them from school.
Autism is a form of complex disorders of brain functions. There are many stages and differences between forms of autism. There are verbal and nonverbal, repetitive behaviors, violent outbursts and social interaction. Each child is different and unique and will thrive with the right method of teaching. In the case of Giovanni and Carmelina, they are 13 years old but have a mentality of children between the ages of 7 and 10.
Giovanni and Carmelina are different in many ways but the one common thing they share is autism. They are both verbal, extremely bright, loving, caring and compassionate. Their good outweighs the bad. For instance, Gio used to be extremely violent. He would throw things, attack people and harm his sister. Donna claims that with “the right interaction and medication, they were able to stabilize the behavior.” He is still tense to this day whereas Lina is more loose and sensitive.
They are different in many ways, Giovanni processes questions and functions slower and Lina has a photographic memory. Meals are a chore in the home. Lina has meltdowns over food and has a hard time focusing. Gio inhales food so easily that he has to be monitored in case of choking. Gio dislikes swimming but enjoys showers, Lina is sensitive to running water and prefers baths and swimming. “No two autistic children are the same, we learn to embrace their differences and that is what makes them unique,” says Donna.
Though they are homeschooled, their parents work hard to make sure they are socialized. Lina does music therapy at the Jewish Community Center and Gio is in Boy Scouts and plays basketball. They are in programs that allow them to socialize with other children and keep them feeling normal.
“I wouldn’t change anything, they have enhanced my life, they’ve brought joy and inspiration to me and they teach me every day,” says Donna when talking about how much having autistic twins has changed her life. She considers both of the kids a blessing and she has learned more patience and love than she ever knew existed. She advises those who have autistic children to be patient, embrace the differences, understand them, teach them and accept the autism. She says “by accepting that they are different and that they have autism, you are able to learn more and teach more.”