If you go
• What: Southwest Washington Special Education Conference and Resource Fair.
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 27.
Where: Prairie High School, 11500 N.E. 117th Ave.
Information: Annie Lamberto, 360-885-5049; email@example.com or Southwest Washington Special Education Conference and Resource Fair.
What: Support group for mothers of children with special needs.
When: 10 a.m. to noon Thursdays.
Information: Roberta Bernhardt, 360-253-5209 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A barefoot Andrew Price, 16, is hanging out in his Brush Prairie living room, waiting for a chance to play League of Legends on his gaming console. Wearing a "Prairie Wrestling" T-shirt that reads "Practice like a champion," he recently finished his second wrestling season and trimmed 45 pounds from his frame. He flexes his biceps to illustrate the result of his hard work.
Andrew has been accepted into the Clark County Skills Center's electro-digital technology program for next school year, where he'll learn to troubleshoot computer problems. Next month, the Prairie High School sophomore will be recognized as a recipient of the Clark County Youth Achievement Award in the "personal achievement" category.
What's notable about Andrew's accomplishments is that as a third-grader, he was struggling both in school and at home, and was diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. It's an autism spectrum disorder on the high end of the spectrum. People diagnosed with the neurological condition often face challenges interacting socially, among other things.
Andrew credits hard work — and his mother, Marilyn Price — for his success in overcoming barriers. After his first week of grueling wrestling practices, he wanted to quit. But his mom challenged him to keep trying.
"You helped me focus," he told his mom. "You told me 80 percent of the battle's in your mind."
His teacher, Lamees Shahtout, nominated Andrew for the Youth Achievement Award and wrote: "He has Asperger syndrome, but does not let it slow him down. He goes above and beyond through simple acts of kindness."
In the beginning, before Andrew was diagnosed, life was a series of struggles. Price sensed her son wasn't quite the same as other kids his age. It was hard to take him to public places.
"Unfortunately, in our society, if you're not perfect, you're looked at in a whole different light," she said. "People with special needs are socially isolated. From the time Andrew was small, we didn't know where to get help. At first, I thought, 'What am I doing wrong?' Then I started asking, 'What kind of help do I need?'"
Her pediatrician said Andrew was fine, but Price knew something was different about Andrew. She found another pediatrician. Eventually, with the Asperger's diagnosis, Price could put a name to her son's struggle. And she began finding resources to help her best help her son.
"When you're out there floundering, not knowing where to turn for help, you feel isolated and alone. You feel isolated because of the way people look at you when your family is out in public."
Through knocking on many doors, Price found answers and the help her son needed. Four years ago, she found a support group, Amazing Moms, that meets weekly in Vancouver. And last year, she found more answers at the Southwest Washington Special Education and Resource Fair organized by Annie Lamberto, a special education teacher at Prairie High School.
"We want other parents to know that you're not alone. There is help out there," Price said. "What better place to find help than a group of other parents who have blazed the trail before you and found the resources?"