My Autistic Daughter
By now most everyone has heard about autism and how it affects so many children...one of those affected is my daughter.
My daughter is now 17 and was first diagnosed at age 7. I didn't know anything about autism at the time and since she is high-functioning it isn't that easy to pick up on the signs when children are small. Her repetitive actions, not wanting to be cuddled, even putting the kitten in the toilet and dumping glue on the other little girl's head next to her in her preschool class, didn't seem anymore than her just being naughty (She was 3 at the time, and the kitten was okay...she didn't flush) At 3 years old we also joked that she must be an alien from another planet because she spoke fluently a language only she understood.
In Kindergarten she did okay, always seemed a little behind others in her work and would follow the teacher around everywhere, something she would do throughout her grade school years. Making friends was a little easier for her in grade school as they did not notice her differences too much. She was sent out to the "special room" for extra help, then children realized there was something different. At one point they had separated her from the other children because she would act out, not realizing that the acting out was because she was overwhelmed with activity going on, too much noise, too many children in the classroom and the fact that it takes longer for her to process information given to her by the teacher. The school did their best, I suppose, but they had a lot to learn.
I must say middle school was a blessing. She had the most incredible special education teacher. My daughter bonded with her almost immediately and still wants to go back and visit her from time to time. She knew how to be consistent with the kids, firm but fair and caring, and that is something my daughter needed. Middle school brought on frustrations for her because of her lack of social skills, something they try to teach but because of her lack of empathy or sympathy, it doesn't always catch on. I know I could talk to her about something until I was blue in the face and I had might as well be talking to the wall because I would get the same response. The only kids that she was able to befriend also had issues so when both of their issues flared up at the same time, they were no longer friends...well at least for an hour or two, and then they would forget that they even fought. We made it through middle school thanks to the special education teacher, I don't think we could have done it without her.
This is where we are at now. She is a junior in high school, for the past two years she has made it almost half a year and then I had to pull her out to home school. She couldn't take the crowded classes or the other kids. She finds it hard to make any friends in school. The "normal" kids do not know how to deal with her issues, and there are no other girls in her special education class. Because of this and other factors, she suffers from depression, she sleeps a lot and likes to shut out the world. She wants to have a boyfriend but is also afraid to at the same time. High school is a demanding place for any teenager, yet alone ones who have disabilities. Again, there are issues with some teachers who don't understand her autism since she looks "normal" but can't always handle the work or the large classrooms. Though, when the special education students cannot take any more in their class, they are allowed to return to their special education room to calm down and relax in a quiet atmosphere. We still have this year and her senior year to go, but hopefully she will make it a full year this year and be able to graduate next year.
I do have something I find quite interesting with her, she has her own cell phone and she only likes to text, she will call if she absolutely has to but even when we are in the same house, even the same room she opts to send me a text rather than talk to me. I think that gives her more time to process my answer.
So she didn't make it a full year....she decided to do some self injurious behaviors and thought that taking too many pills would get her more attention, and trust me she gets alot, but apparently not enough. She is okay but because of her issues, she is not at school for the time being. I am finding that depression is pretty common in autistic teens and this behavior is also common, though not every teen will follow through with their thoughts of hurting themselves. Yes she sees counselors, her psychiatrist and we are trying to work through these issues. Being a teenager is hard enough, but being an autistic one brings new twists to it.
Finding a job for her may not be so easy, she wants to work but doesn't want to work with the public, which would eliminate most minimum wage jobs. Fortunately we have registered her with our local disabilities office and when she turns 18, they will start helping her with job hunting, a place to live, whatever she may need to live a productive life.
I focused on the things she has difficulty with but wanted to also focus on her interests. She loves to draw, I think one of her first large drawings was on her grandma's Cadillac when she was four, she used a rock. She also loves to take pictures and we recently purchased her a digital SLR camera, she knows how to use more of the functions than I do. She is also very good at directions, if you go somewhere once, she can tell you how to get there. If you fix something or put something together, she will watch and immediately know how to do it. She recently started taking an interest in reading, something she has hated forever, this is very exciting for me, a very positive thing.
My daughter decided to try for her permit at age 18 and after the second written test...got it! She was soooo excited and I must say, she is a good driver. We took her everywhere to let her get a lot of practice in so when she turned 19 she decided to go ahead and try for her license. She got it her first try with a 90%! I was so excited for her. There are alot of things my daughter can do and she doesn't let her autism hold her back. I am very proud of her!
Updating....not so happy times
It has been awhile...a long while since I have been on here. I guess I was hoping for fairy tale endings and all's well....
That did not happen.
I think the worse thing we could have done was let her get her license. Now I am not saying that for all high functioning autistic individuals, just my daughter. She tends to be a follower...someone who likes to make others happy and wants them to like her...well not her family most of the time...but her "so called friends".
After getting her license and the fact that she had SSI money, she had "friends"...who needed a ride, who would need to borrow money...and would disappear after the money ran out....of course she would make excuses for them but you know the kind...fair weather friends...
She moved to a different town, where her new boyfriend lived, she was able to get a place and paid for everything...he was "looking for work". Of course nothing ever panned out and unfortunately she got in with the wrong kind of crowd through him. It was several months before we realized how bad it was, she wouldn't say a word, even when he was abusive, saying it was her fault apparently and believing him when he said he was sorry. Eventually because of the loudness and who knows what else went on they were kicked out of their apartment and he was arrested for abuse. At this time we thought we could convince her to come back home, but she put on a good front and had people to stay with. I wish I would have been able to get her back home but she was 21 and I could not make her.
Again she got in with the wrong crowd, they were giving her things to keep her awake and drive them everywhere until she finally got up the nerve to tell someone and we finally went and got her.....the people she was with did not like her leaving and slashed her tires....we had to have her towed back on a trailer.....oh but she did not learn....soon after getting new tires....she was off.....
More to come....( I know there are other parents dealing with addictions/autism/bi-polar and who knows what else they will diagnose her with but I am just letting you know it can be dealt with and we can try to get through this...as of right now we are working on things)
Here are some of her drawings and photos
Informational Sites about Autism
- Autism Society of America:
"Autism Society of America (ASA) is the leading voice and resource of the entire autism community in education, advocacy, services, research and support."
- Autism Research Institute
"The Autism Research Institute (ARI), is a non-profit organization. ARI is primarily devoted to conducting research, and to disseminating the results of research, on the triggers of autism and on methods of diagnosing and treating autism."