Autism is what's known as a spectrum disorder, which means it covers a wide range of symptoms. There are some common threads - sensory overload and social awkwardness, for example - and some problems aren't as common - having to have strict routines to manage the day, or only being able to eat brown food - but if you've met one autistic person you've met one autistic person. Each one has their own challenges, advantages and quirks. They're kinda like cats.
(which reminds me - when my wife was pregnant, people asked how I'd handle a baby. I told them I was well trained, having had cats all my life. They don't listen, they're pushy, they will do what they want to do, you have to clean up after them, and when they want you to wake the heck up, you WILL wake the heck up)
As I said in the previous post, Xan is quite smart, and he can handle change pretty well. He may not be happy about some switches, but he isn't locked into a second-by-second schedule. He has some sensory issues, especially with echoes, and when really excited will do what is called stimming - flap his hands, jump, and twirl in circles, which can lead to overexictement and a possible meltdown. Too much feeling, too little outlet.
One issue he does have is a lack of verbal skills. He can talk, but doesn't very much, and his communication is limited to hard concepts, like 'I want' or 'can-I-please-have', all in one quick sound. He has a lot of code words or shortcuts - for a while if he was upset he'd say ABC ABC ABC over and over, or saying 3 when he wants a CD to repeat a song (our car CD player has the number 3 on the repeat key and he put it together that way) and other ones that we're so used to they're etched into everyday life and not noticeable anymore.
Soft concepts are those based on emotion, the harder things to explain, and that's where he has trouble. He can't say if he's mad or sad. We pick up on that when he starts yelling or crying, when it's obvious and past the point we could have helped. But when he's happy, he lets out this gleeful, joyous 'Deeeeeee'; one high long drawn out sound of sheer emotion. He does it when we pick up mommy from work, when we're driving in the car and his favorite song is blasting and he's sticking his hand out the window, when I'm tickling him in between the laughs. It's a wonderful sound to hear.
Here's hoping you all have a Deeeeeeeeee moment today.
There's an old Bill Cosby routine where he describes the typical clueless husband and father making a mess of assigned chores. The avalanche of errors ends with him being sent back to bed - which is where he wanted to be in the first place. It ends with the statement, "You see, we are dumb...and we are not so dumb." Good comedy concert - Bill Cosby Himself, if you want to check it out.
That remind me of my son. I would be far from calling him dumb; far from it. Every therapist and teacher he's seen has said he is more than likely brilliant, a genius, which no doubt he gets from his mother. He's been on the honor roll every quarter at school, ending with a 98 average this year. He got the highest score in the class on standardized tests back when he first started school. All of this while suffering from sensory overload.
(A quick note on autism - one of the more common characteristics is being unable to shut out as much of the world as you and I can. For example, you and I can focus on a conversation we're having in a noisy room, if with some difficulty. And we're able to ignore the flickers of flourescent lights, for another example. But many autistic kids have all this sensory input hitting them at once all the time. Imagine taking an IQ test in a room with a strobe lights, ear-bleedlingly loud music playing, and the chair and desk shifting from side to side randomly. Now imagine scoring high on the IQ test. Meet my son.)
There are times when I know, and his teachers know, that he CAN do something but doesn't WANT to, and acts like he can't. It used to be a huge problem, to where his teachers would ask me to get him to do things as homework that he had learned at eighteen months but decided he didn't want to do. In addition to being smart, he can be very cunning. Dumb...but not so dumb.
So I push him. I don't let him slide. And, well, we have a battle of the wills. If he inherited my wife's brains, he also inherited my stubbornness. The battles can be epic.
And yes, I have screwed up royally in the past. Taken resistance as "I won't" when it was "I can't" or, one time, "I'm really sick and about to throw up." If the boy ever does get to talking, he will make some therapist very rich one day. Part of the joys of parenthood in general and autism in particular.
But all I can do is believe in him and make him show what he can do. Because he can do so much, and I want people to see how smart he is. Autistic...but not so dumb.
Hello everyone - welcome to this little downhome corner of the internet. My name is Brian Robinson, and I'd like to thank the Anniston Star for letting me have my own space here on their website.
I'm planning for this blog to have a focus on autism. We have an autistic son, and in dealing with that have learned many things we'd like to share, both in terms of general information and experiences to specific groups in town who can assist people who need help. It's hard to go through, but maybe we can start other people dealing with this a little farther down the path than we had to start. In that spirit, my wife has started a local autism support group - it's at CalhounCountyAutismInfo.com. It's a good place to start if you'd like, or need, more information.
Of course, I can't post about autism 24/7 - I'd go more crazy than my friends and the general public already think I am, so we'll range far afield. If anyone has any questions or the like, e-mail me at BHRobin@aol.com and I'll see if I can help.
Hope you like the blog.