LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - The Autism Spectrum Disorder is a brain condition which impacts how we socialize with other people.
Recently, the CDC updated the incidence of that to one in every 68.
April is Autism Awareness month. On the last day of the month, we want you to meet someone with that condition. You may not think you know Brandon Buzzank, but I bet you’ve seen him many times on TV.
Brent McGavock owns McGavock Nissan Auto Dealership. He told me, “I look up and see a guy in a suit cleaning the counter, handing out cookies. I knew he wasn’t employed here. He said ‘I thought I would help out while I was getting my car serviced.’ I hired him on the spot."
Brent is talking about Brandon Buzzank, who has since become the frog mascot for the dealership.
When Brandon puts on the frog suit, he makes everybody happy.
Abbie Ancell, an employee, says with a smile, “He likes to go everywhere in the frog suit, even places he shouldn’t go.”
Katy Sanders, another employee adds, “He’s so much fun around here. All the little kids love him."
What you can’t see beneath the costume is a brilliant mind.
Brent says he learned something about Brandon when he converted to Catholicism. He says, “They checked his IQ and it was over 160. So, he’s a genius."
At the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Sherry Sancibrian is a speech and language pathologist with a special interest in the communication problems that come with the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
She says, "Some people have significant deficits, but so many in the ASD are able to go to college or find employment that fits them.”
Brandon has taken classes at Texas Tech University. For now, he is pouring his interest into his job at McGavock. Basically, he does what they ask him to do and more.
Jorge Arguelles works with him in Inventory Management. He says Brandon developed a system where customers can scan a vehicle code with their iPhone which takes them to that vehicle on the McGavock website.
Brandon also figured out how to put graphics on the cards printed with the scan codes. Jorge adds, “Previously we had no idea how to do that.”
Jorge and I watched Brandon as he demonstrated the sticker process. It was a lengthy job. We must have looked like we were ready to move to something else, because Brandon said while he worked, “I’m almost done. I just have 5 more.” And Jorge explained, “Sometimes you just have to let him do his thing."
Sherry says that kind of focus is typical of autism. But she also tells people, wouldn’t every employer appreciate a worker like that? She explains, "Because the same routine done every day, done in a certain order, that’s a perfect fit for a lot of individuals with autism.”
Brandon understands his disorder enough to want to improve. He says, “Anytime I see research on autism, I jump on it and try to get involved.” That’s why he is currently in a clinical trial testing a drug called Balovaptan. He flies to Austin regularly to participate in that drug study.
He says in the beginning, he didn’t know if he was getting the real drug or a placebo, but he has since learned that he is getting the real thing. And he believes he is seeing some improvement in his social skills.
However, he says he has also learned there is something more important than that. He says, “Drugs are good if they help you a little bit, but support means more than any drug. If nobody ever gets to take this drug, Balovaptan, life goes on. You don’t need a drug to change who you are."
Ironically, he and Sherry both told me the same thing, that more than Autism Awareness, the idea should be Autism Acceptance. And he says instead of a month, the effort should continue throughout the year.
Sherry says, “If we could appreciate that all our brains are different, we could appreciate the gifts that might come with autism." She says at Texas Tech, the Burkhart Center for Autism has helped 70 people with that condition transition into employment in and around Lubbock. And she adds that typically, they have proven to be loyal, dependable and hardworking employees.
Remember, Brandon never applied for work at McGavock. He began helping customers at the dealership even before he was hired. Now, Brent says there’s no limit to what Brandon will do to help the business.
Brent tells the story that one time, Brandon made sure every car on the lot was locked at the dealerships in Lubbock, Amarillo and Abilene, all in one day. But Brent adds, “I would never ask him to do that. He just did it." Brent also told me, “He’s rewarded us more than we’ve rewarded him. It’s been a blessing for us.”
Here’s what Brent doesn’t know: Just minutes before the story aired, Brandon sent me a message. It said, “Give a shout out to Amy and Brent McGavock for me tonight. I appreciate them both.”
I’m sorry I couldn’t give the shout out, but I think they know.
If you have a loved one with ASD, Brandon wanted me to share this information about his drug study.
Roche Viaduct Study
Adult participants age 18 and over take investigational drug called Balovaptan.
Website with informational video about study has been set up. Visit: http://adultasdclinicaltrial.com/