PORTLAND, Texas — “It’s actually very surprising that I’m here as who I am,” said Hunter Meldrum.
Meldrum was diagnosed with Autism as a child, but that hasn't stopped him from reaching his goals. It did create challenges for his mother though, who had to learn how to help him.
“When your child is diagnosed with Autism, you’re lost. You don’t know what to do," Janine Trinidad said, Hunter's mother. "And you’re thinking, my world just crashed. But it doesn’t have to be that way.”
As Trinidad began learning how to help Hunter, her older son Kenneth was having a hard time understanding what Hunter was living with.
That's when she started writing the children's book "Finding Hunter." It was a way for Kenneth to try and relate to Hunter.
It consists of three parts, Hunter the Monkey, Hunter the Tiger and Hunter the Mockingbird. Each part describes Hunter's actions and tendencies, his emotions and his pickiness.
Then Trinidad began using the book to help other children learn about Autism or ways to help their own siblings with Autism.
“I wanted other kids to understand because when Hunter did start school, there was a lot of kids that don't understand," Trinidad said. "So, they look at him funny or go 'what's wrong with him?'" "So I started explaining to them. They would ask and I was like, 'OK this is what it is'. I said 'he can’t speak yet'. and she goes 'well I can read to him and I can talk to him' and they started helping out instead of just being like, 'what’s wrong with that kid?'”
Now Hunter had support. He and his mother laid out goals step by step to accomplish going through school.
"One of the things I learned is the worst part is actually the anticipation," said Hunter. "Sometimes you just got to go right into it and the nerves will go away."
"He studies all the time," Trinidad said. "He doesn't complain about it. He studies from morning to night. He is an excellent student. He knows his goals he knows what he wants and that's how we went into."
On Saturday, he'll graduate from Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi with a Bachelor's in Psychology. Here's why Hunter chose Psychology.
“One thing is that much like my Autism, once you know more about other people you can relate to them much easier," he said. "And you can feel like you’re not alone anymore. And I kind of want to help share that feeling."
"When he had the ring ceremony, it was just so thrilling to see him succeed," said Trinidad. "And not just because I was behind him, but because Driscoll (Children's hospital) did their part, teachers did their part, family did their part, members of society did their part. and we made it and he made it."
Hunter isn't sure about a career just yet. When he figures that out, he'd like to go back to school for a Master's for that career field.
To purchase a copy of "Finding hunter," you go to blurb.com.