Well, you were curious enough to come here. You may have received a card from me. You might have seen me on Facebook or Twitter. So what am I doing?
My name is Karen. My hair is blue because I’m the mom of 1 in 54 boys. For every 54 boys in America, one of them has autism. This is my one:
My son has autism.
You’ve heard the word. You’ve seen it but you don’t really know what it is or how it affects someone. This page is to provide you with some very basic information from my own perspective as a mom.
April is Autism Awareness Month. This is a month where those whose lives are affected by autism make an effort to spread the word autism to the public, to raise a collective consciousness. Because you are here and have read this far, I thank you.
Autism is not a death sentence. People do not “die” from autism. Autism is a spectrum. That means that each person diagnosed with some form of autism, is different. Yet, within the differences is a basic definition of brain-based (neurological) developmental disorders that impair social interaction and communication.
No one knows what causes autism. It is not caused because a parent used drugs, didn’t take care of themselves during pregnancy, or has poor parenting skills. There is no hard evidence linking autism to vaccinations, although there is an adamant group of affected parents who believe the two are linked.
There is no cure for autism. There are treatments and therapies that help children cope with the disability. There are children with autism who attend regular school classrooms with regular students either with an aide, without, or part-time, and children with ASD who are in special education classes or autism classrooms, or home schooled, depending on the severity of the diagnosis, presence of other disabilities that coexist with the autism or choice of the parents.
Before autism touched my life, I had no idea what it was. If I heard a child screaming or crying in a public place, I figured the kid was probably a “spoiled brat”, working a weak parent for something. I would become annoyed with screaming, crying children, likely rolled my eyes, and shot a dirty look to the parents. I regret that more than I could ever express here. (Much as I hate to admit it – that is the truth).
Now, I understand that a screaming, crying child in a public place could – very well -have a disability, including an overwhelming difficulty using his senses (sight, hearing, feeling, smelling, tasting, his body’s position in relation to other objects) to process what is happening even if he looks just like a “normal” child. He/she may be unable to communicate or even understand what is happening to him/her that leads to the meltdown.
Some events and circumstances are predictable triggers for meltdowns to parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, like bright lights, loud noises, crowds or temperatures.
Other times, the event that triggers an autistic person’s inability to deal with any given circumstance, is not predictable or foreseeable. We are not ‘bad’ parents. We are not spoiling our children. We are dealing with a disability. One you cannot see by looking at the child. One which is accompanied by a lack of understanding and discrimination.
My son is 5 years old. He doesn’t look any different from any other 5 year old boy. Except when you watch him for an extended period of time.
His behavior is different. He is unlikely to make eye contact with you or greet you. If he speaks to you, he may do so in “scripts”, lines from TV, movies, or a toy that talks. He will repeat the same sentence. He may stare at a spinning toy for a very, very long time. He may talk to himself, yell, whisper or laugh. He may appear to be in his own world. He may pay intense interest in you for 15 seconds and completely ignore you for hours.
He is unable to wait in lines without “stimming” – using coping mechanisms. Some children cope by rocking, spinning or, in my son’s case, constantly moving, touching things and talking. Even when I tell him to stand still in a line, he cannot help but touch things, pace, and keep moving. He will ask me to repeat a word or a phrase over and over again. This is because part of his autism includes a sensory processing disorder.
Sometimes, my son cannot always understand where his body is in relation to space. He has to touch things, keep moving to know his foot is on the ground, the wall is three feet to his right. There is a line separator to his left. My kid is not being bad – he need input to tell him where he is. He is coping with a disability.
So the next time, you see a little child, unable to wait in a line, be understanding. Know that he/she may be trying to process what is in front of him or around him. Be patient. Smile.
Autism is responsible for these differences.
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) occur over all racial, ethnic and socioeconomic groups and range in the degree to which a child is affected.
Some children have no language difficulties (Asperger’s), some have mild difficulty with language (sometimes through echolalia, or repeating of words, phrases or scripts). Others are completely nonverbal.
About 40% of children with an ASD do not talk at all. Another 25%–30% of children with autism have some words at 12 to 18 months of age and then lose them. Others may speak, but not until later in childhood.
From the beginning of time, those who are different tend to become isolated, singled out, made fun of, teased, bullied, and hurt because of their differences. By reading this, you have just increased your understanding. I hope that leads to tolerance and acceptance.
Just like everyone else, an autistic person does not want condescension, pity, or misunderstanding. They want to be accepted and liked for who they are. Autistic people are quirky, quiet and loud, generous, devoted, funny, smart, genuine and fun. You will find some of the kindest, most honest and steadfast friends you could ever hope to have.
Give them a chance. Here are some of my friends who are standing with me this month in my “Blue Hair to Be Aware” month!
And now we’re 14! Join us and send me YOUR picture to add to this page by emailing it to firstname.lastname@example.org together with the name you want to be posted – I will add the link to your blog! Hurry up! April only has 30 days…