Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Explaining Autism for understanding

My son was diagnosed with Aspergers, on the autism spectrum at the age of 3. 
Up until this point we had assumed the responsibility for his behavior and actions, Although we didn't fully understand them ourselves. 

We didn't hit the ground running in therapies and services, because we weren't aware. We did what was recommended but most of it honestly dissipated because of the amount of information being pushed at us. We couldn't absorb it all and a lot of it slipped away. 

It wasn't until we moved to Iowa, where My sons kindergarten teacher made a comment that at the time, frustrated me. She said I should take him to the local mental health clinic and have him evaluated. My respect for her disappeared that very second, and I instantly decided to dislike her. 

It was no secret, he was struggling in school, but I made excuses. His classroom was too stimulating. It was overwhelming even for me, I can't imagine how it must be for a 6 year old, for 6 hours a day, Autism Spectrum or not! 

Several months later, my sons pediatrician who specialized with Autism, recommended a Child Psychiatrist. His recommendation was valid and I accepted it because of his degree. It turned out to be the best thing we ever did. It also turned out to be at the same mental health clinic the kindergarten teacher not so delicately told me I should take him to months before. 

Reality is this- while I was the parent directly affected by the diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder child; I knew less than I needed to. I needed to be educated. I needed to be his advocate, and an intelligent one at that. I needed to be proactive, and I needed to be able to accept advice, constructive criticism, and I needed to be able to help others understand his disorder. No more excuses. 

When there is a conflict or misunderstanding that involves my child, it generally ends up being the best time to educate the child or adult. Yes, my son is different, but he doesn't look different. He doesn't look special needs. 
He thinks differently. This can be very hard for NT (Neuro-Typical) people to understand. 
I have been told by several people, especially parents that my sons autism shouldn't be an excuse. I always tell them that their ignorance shouldn't be theirs. It is possible, that the lack of understanding is the biggest gap between Autism and the rest of the NT world. 

When explaining that my son thinks differently, I use an example that has worked best. I ask a simple question to help them understand his thinking. 

"when I say the word Saturday, what do you think of?" 

the response is almost always the usual common thoughts of - no school. A day off. We get to sleep in, etc.. 
Once I have given them the time to answer my question, I respond by saying "when CM hears the word Saturday, he sees a picture in his mind.
 It is a picture of Tall Buildings." 

We get the immediate reaction of "Oooooh" every time. 
It begins a conversation that then helps them understand that even though, they may have said something very clearly, that everyone else understood, to CM.. It didn't make sense. The pictures in his mind, didn't line up and make a perfectly formed sentence that was clear as day. It was a garbled, random and out of place thought. And often it is this that is the root of his conflicts. A misunderstanding. 

CM has developed a funny guy label with his peers. This is merely his coping device. We talk a lot about his different ability. We want him to be aware that it's perfectly fine to be different, and it's perfectly ok to not be like everyone else. When he is in a situation he feels uncomfortable, or simply doesn't understand... The funny guy makes an appearance. I am sure this was created out of accident. His mind showing him pictures that didn't fit the conversation. He says out loud what his brain is telling him, and quickly learned that instead of being made fun of, they laughed. So he laughed with them. 

We have eliminated a lot of misunderstandings by helping others understand. My son now has a group of kids in the neighborhood, that are willing to defend him. They accept him, just the way he is. 

So what is Autism? 
Autism is different. But it can be awesome. Often grouped together under one term, it is the umbrella over all the spectrum disorders and easier to explain to others to help them understand. 
Rally your support, share with others how it's not contagious, it's not wrong. It's just a different way of thinking. 
Sure my son doesn't "play" with his toys. He collects them and thinks about how he is going to collect more. It's different, but it's not wrong. 


This is how you build awareness. 

And as for the Essential oils... In Tune is a great one for creating focus, and Balance to help keep them relaxed and grounded, especially in social situations. 

It's not going to be perfect. But you can always make progress. 
But we don't want perfection. 
Just progress. 


  1. That was just awesome, and very close to home for us too. Thank you.

  2. Thanks Carly. It feels so good to know its not just us. I mean, I know we're not. But it can certainly feel that way.