Location: Oregon, United States

Here is why I put my long(er) ramblings, well, at least the stuff I pretend the think about BEFORE posting. Here is my primary site.

Monday, October 09, 2006

My son has Autism.

More specifically, my son has a disorder that is part of the Austism Spectrum of Disorders. Many people have the wrong impression of autism, mostly due to the fact that the only type of autism that gets serious time in TV and film is the severe cases. The cases with people who are unable to communicate verbally; overreactive to stimulus like touch and light; those who perform repetitive behaviour, especially physical behaviour such as rocking or hitting themselves. For my son, autism has meant that his language skills are delayed, his ability to socially interact is limited, and both symbolic and imaginative play have been delayed. Overall, he is about a year and a half behind on many things.

When he was first being diagnosed, the neurologist was unwilling to say the "A word," but rather referred to it as Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). When we indicated that we understand what Autism was, and wasn't, he was then willing to mention Autism and provide the name of another doctor that specialized in Autism that we could see. We got him into speech and physical therapy (not the type of physical therapy for recovery from injury, but learning how to deal with physical sensations), by the time he was 2 years old. Many children see marked improvement if they have the right help, and the earlier the better. Therefore, I believe that he is far better than he would have been without help. It is sad that so many children do not get the help they need because parents are unwilling to accept that their child has Austism, or they give up on their child when they are diagnosed.

So far, his delay hasn't gotten worse. But there is always that fear. The fear that one day, he will stop learning, he will stop growing emotionally, and that is where he will remain. I worry that he will never be able to live a "normal" life on his own, or that he will get to be in love with somebody, or have his own family.

But there is hope. I look at my own life, and see hope for him. You see, the problems he has, and the good things, I also have. Some of those are to a different extent, but I still see many of them in my own life. Although I do not believe my language skills were as delayed as his, even today, I have to struggle with some words, especially non-technical words that can have multiple, or contextual, meanings. He is hyperlexic, which means that he is learning letters and spelling sooner than others, I was the same way. I look over my life and realize that there is hope for him, because I see a lot of me there.

There has been some good from this, however. I have have paid more attention to his development, and the little things that I might have missed. Think of it, if at around 2 years old, your child has only reached 6 months worth of emotional development and play. By that time, children are supposed to be starting to fully pretend things are something else. Like picking up a banana and pretending it is a phone. But your child doesn't. Your child may be able to smile and laugh and react to you, but they can't tell the difference in your voice between happy and sad, only things like volume. Now if your child starts to develop at a normal pace, you will still be watching, and waiting for each developmental step.

When you child first learns to walk, you are joyous and happy and you are there for as many of those "first steps" as you can be. But after they get the basics down, you stop noticing. When they move up to running, you get frustrated that they can get into things a lot faster now. When they move up to climbing, you get angry that they can get to your breakable stuff on the counters.

However, if your child was unable to learn to walk for over a year after they were supposed to, then every time they make an improvement, you will be there, and you will be happy. They learn to run? Even if they are running and knocking things over, you will be happy that they can do that. Climb things to get the cookies on the counter? You celebrate by getting down the really good cookies out of the cabinet.

You see, every step in life that my son takes, I celebrate, because it is a gift, to all of us. Most people hate the "terrible twos," that age that children start to express frustration and anger, and they want to do everything themselves. When my son starting reaching that phase at 3 and a half, we were happy that he was able to express himself. His language was a little futher behind, he knew the words, but couldn't make the sounds himself. This caused a little more frustration, but he was expressing emotions and himself in many ways. A time that most parents do not look forward to, we were happy to have, even if ours was a little harder because we were not dealing with a little 2 year old, but a larger 3 1/2 year old.

Not only do I notice his development more, I notice all of the children more. Every day I take time to tell all of my children that I love them. I take the time to look at them and try to remember how I felt at that age. I try to remember how much they have grown, and how much they have left to go. I try to remember the happiness and frustration, the joy and pains. I look in their faces and see the individuals they are, and how proud I am of them.


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