“If you’ve seen one child with autism…”

“You’ve seen one child with autism, you’ve seen ONE child with autism.”  That is a very true statement, and it was shown to me by a wonderful woman who worked with autistic children for years.

People with autism are not the same in how they exhibit the symptoms of their “condition.”  In Builder’s preschool class, for example, there were very verbal children.  They would wave to me and say hello and want to take my hand even before they really knew who I was.  However, they have other limitations involving light, sound, and processing instructions from speech into meaningful actions.  Many of the children require therapy to help them learn basic skills.  Others do have profound speech concerns.  Builder, for example, didn’t know the concept of “name” before he began therapy.  He didn’t know what a name meant.

So in a class of, say, a dozen students, there are a variety of concerns.  Sensitivity to light, to sound, to texture.  And my son is in the “higher functioning” class.  There is another at his school that relies a great deal on picture-codes, because many of the children are still “prespeech” in their development.

There is as yet no actual “cure” for autism.  There is no magical routine that will change  the brains of these amazing children, who face a word filled with often frightening stimuli and manage, somehow, to either put it from them or work their own way through it all.  All we can do as family, teachers and friends is to help them develop skills with which they can adapt and even conquer their environments.

My son is a funny kid.   He makes jokes, plays with words, draws endless pictures on paper, a magnadoodle and the computer.  He is proud of his achievements, such as finishing his medicine, putting on his socks and shoes all by himself, and when he makes new jokes.  His laughter is as contagious as anyone’s.

And he fights with his big brother, Cyclone, just like any other kid, too.

People with autism are people.  They do not look the same, do not act the same, do not exhibit the same curiosities as others who share their diagnosis.  But they all have hard-wired oddnesses to their thinking and development.  I liken it to missing bridges over streams.  It doesn’t mean they cannot cross the streams; it means that we have to find stepping stones for them, show them how to use them, and make sure it’s as safe as possible on the other side.

And then, we watch them go. 🙂

(Previously posted in 2009, with some modificiation.)

6 comments

  1. merry · August 3, 2012

    Thank you so much for sharing this! This is beautifully said.

    • Sandi · August 3, 2012

      Thank you, merry. 🙂

      I need to do a Progress Report for my son, I think this autumn, to share how he’s doing. 🙂

  2. Jason Preater · February 11, 2013

    I worked as a teacher for many years and dealt with autistic spectrum disorders. I found that listening to the parents’ experiences was the only certain way of knowing what I was dealing with. You expressed your position clearly and succinctly. It could be a model for other parents.

    • Sandi · February 11, 2013

      Thank you, Jason. If my words can speak for others, it’s the highest compliment in the world. It’s amazing to listen to other parents, to share in the joys and frustrations as well as to see the variety of Autism’s presentation in our lives.

  3. Jack Flacco · February 17, 2013

    Autistic Spectrum Disorder affects a wide variety of children. Being a parent of a child with Asperger’s makes things challenging at times for our family. We spend lots of time repeating basic functions. And we attempt to not single out our child as “special”. We treat him like everyone else. We’ve sat with him explaining what his condition is and he understands. It’s hard to comprehend how a child can score high marks in a university-level English curriculum and still can’t tie his shoes. It’s a mystery to me!

    • Sandi · February 18, 2013

      The mind is an amazing thing! ASD present differently in every person, for sure.

      Tying the shoes requires a different part of the brain than literature. lol

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