Aries Atkinson

Born on November 11, 2017, Aries Atkinson was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in May of 2020 during the global pandemic when he was just over two years old. Aries came into the world as a 23-week micro preemie, weighing only 1 pound and 11 ounces. A true miracle child, Aries spent about 150 days in the Level IV NICU at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital of the Texas Medical Center. Due to his extremely low birth weight, medical professionals labeled Aries as a “failure to thrive”and gave him a 20% survival rate; his chances were further diminished due to Grade 3 and Grade 4 intraventricular hemorrhages (“brain bleeds”), noncommunicating hydrocephalus (“cerebrospinal fluid on the brain”), and an open patent ductus arteriosus (“hole in the heart”) all within his first month of life. These medical complications, along with numerous surgical interventions, classified Aries as being developmentally delayed upon his graduation from the NICU.Since leaving the NICU, Aries has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy in both legs and his left arm (2018), nystagmus (2018), strabismus (2018), epilepsy (2020), and autism spectrum disorder (2020). He also experienced brain surgery six times. Despite these challenges, Aries has shown remarkable resilience and optimism through his dedication to intensive, weekly therapies. His positive attitude has not only helped him overcome obstacles but has also inspired others who know him. Since leaving the NICU, Aries has become one of the most influential disabled youth advocates in the Greater Houston area, and his influence continues to grow.

Although Aries is nonverbal according to medical definitions, he deeply loves music. His days are filled with harmonious humming and musical engagement, whether through his keyboard or by turning any surface into a drum set. Aries is a musical connoisseur, with favorite songs such as “I2I” by Tevin Campbell (from Disney’s A Goofy Movie) and Johann Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Major.”

In addition to his musical talents, Aries’ most significant strength is his optimism. Regardless of his challenges, he always finds a way to approach life positively. Aries deserves recognition as an Autism All-Star for his refusal to let anyone define his limitations and for his advocacy on behalf of children with disabilities nationwide.                                                                                                     

Every Christmas, Aries contributes to the Fairplay Libraries Holiday Card Fundraiser by creating artwork to raise awareness and funds for adapted toy libraries for children with movement disabilities across the country. His involvement in this program demonstrates that even nonverbal individuals can communicate and contribute meaningfully to the world.

Aries has two notable achievements, including his participation in the Cap-Based Transcranial Optical Tomography (CTOT) Device research study as an infant, where he was the first baby in the world to have his brain successfully scanned by this device. Additionally, he established the “Aries Reign Williams Adapted Toy Library” at his former school, James Patterson Elementary School. Aries is affectionately known as “The Professor” by his late Great-Great Aunt Dorise Atkinson Boyle.

As a parent, Aries’s mother recognizes him as her greatest gift, emphasizing his significant impact on those around him. Despite facing numerous obstacles, Aries continues to demonstrate unwavering strength, courage, and a resilient spirit, earning him the title of a heroic Autism All-Star. His impact goes beyond words, showing that everyone, regardless of their ability to speak, can contribute meaningfully to our world.

 Congratulations, Aries, on being Hope For Three’s April Autism All-Star! Your journey inspires us.