“People with autism usually have difficulties with social interaction.”
When my son was three I knew something was different about his development, but I wanted to believe that he was just a late bloomer. I struggled to get a proper diagnosis as to what was going on with him. Every doctor I went to had a different opinion, including the idea that we should just “wait and see” since boys often developed later than girls.
When he was five and started school it became glaringly obvious that he was very different. It was then I knew we could no longer deny that there was a problem. That was when the real battles began. I knew my son was very bright, but obviously greatly delayed in some areas of development. The doctors we started with were total roadblocks, and I wanted to pound my head against the wall at times. His school was not much better. The accommodations my son needed were great, and to make him fit into their little mold of what would work in a classroom was going to snuff out his bright shiny little light. I worried so much about my son’s future.
That was ten years ago, and I will say that the past decade has been a struggle, but so worth the effort. My son has a bright future ahead of him. He is planning on going to college, and he has worked very hard to be successful in school. I think the area he still struggles the most with is understanding his peer group. Put him with a bunch of adults and he is fine, but with his classmates he is a fish out of water.
Why is social interaction so difficult for those on the autism spectrum? For some reason the small nuances and the subtle behaviors that come naturally to most people are just not wired into people with processing disorders like autism, ADD, ADHD, and dyspraxia. It can be very obvious with someone whose language skills are not developed, but as a person grows older and learns to compensate it becomes more of a hidden disability. A lot of things can be taught, but being able to actually do them in real life is a lot harder. My son converses like a thirty year old so why would I expect other teenagers to “get him?” The good news is someday he will be 30. So, between now and then it’s important to give him the skills to survive, to be a good person, and to be happy and confident with who he is.
Why are people on the autism spectrum so different from one another? The sensory system is very complicated. You may think of it in the simple terms of sight, sound, touch and smell, but for a person who isn’t wired typically the sensory system is the key to most difficulties. The sense of body awareness, the ambient sounds in a room, clothing textures, smells, are all just examples of how your sensory system is silently working to give your brain feedback. If it’s not in synch the result is frustrating, and different for every individual. There’s no one roadmap that will explain it, and that makes finding the answers and getting the proper help even more challenging.
I hope my insight from the past decade is helpful to understand the world of autism a little better. I always welcome people to contact me if you need to talk. I am happy to share any insights I have – even if it’s just the support of friendship.
My list of ten things I have learned as a parent of a special needs child:
- YOU know your child better than anyone. Any teacher, or doctor, or relative, or other “so called expert” may tell you an opinion, but if your gut says differently listen to your gut. Specialists are not created equally. Surround yourself with experts who really know your child (doctors, OT’s, speech pathologists) if someones doesn’t seem to get your child then find someone who does.
- Your child has rights. You need to fight for them on his or her behalf, and also teach your child to advocate for himself. Don’t take no for an answer – ask a different question, or ask a different person.
- Don’t be afraid to give your child resources because you are worried about what others will think. My son was very young when we put him into adaptive sports. I had friends with children who would have benefited by being involved in such programs, but they were too worried about their child being labeled, or being around other kids with disabilities. The younger you intervene in helping with their development the more helpful it will be. Don’t wait!
- Meltdowns happen. What is important to remember is that whatever triggered the meltdown (no matter how insignificant it may seem to you) isn’t what caused it. That meltdown was in the making for a while before it happened. Keeping the pressure from building up is the key.
- Never underestimate your child. Don’t let anyone put limits on your child’s educational potential – if they do refer to items #1 & #2 on this list.
- Technology is amazing – assistive technology is the future for your child. Learn about it. Understand it. Access it. Don’t let it intimidate you, and most of all get it in the hands of your child.
- Savor the small successes. Enjoy every little victory, and remember to focus on the positives. It’s so easy to always tune into your child’s weaknesses when you are trying to help him or her. Make an effort to look for the strengths too.
- Every person on the autism spectrum is different. Just because your neighbor’s child has certain behaviors doesn’t mean that’s how all people on the spectrum will behave or react. Educate everyone you know about this and the stereotypes will start to diminish. My son has a wicked (I mean wicked) sense of humor, and a crazy imagination. He is one of the most creative people I know. Anyone who says all people with autism don’t laugh or love or smile – or can’t understand jokes, is ignorant about the spectrum.
- Find something your child loves to do and encourage it. My son started therapeutic horseback riding when he was six. He still rides today, and he also volunteers in two programs. He can’t tie his shoes properly, but he can tack a horse all by himself! Self-esteem is a very powerful medicine.
- It’s very normal to worry about the future. Every parent does, but those parents who have kids with special needs do it exceptionally well. Consider creating a special needs trust for your child so you know what the plan will be if the worst should happen.
Finally, I want to say thank you to all of the wonderful reviewers here at Prism Book Alliance. We are a tight knit team, and having the support of our group when I am dealing with a tough day is wonderful. Also, thank you to RJ Scott for making this Blog Hop possible. Raising awareness and educating her readers and friends about autism is a great way of paying it forward to all of those who need support.
Because you stuck with me until the very end of my longest blog post ever, I want to make sure you know about the giveaway that Prism Book Alliance is doing for this Blog Hop.
Please leave a comment and you will be entered for a chance to win a $10 gift card/credit to AllRomance ebooks, Barnes & Noble, or Amazon. Contest closes 11:59 pm 4/15/14 CDT. Must be 18 or older to win. Void where prohibited.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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