Asperger's Syndrome, Part of the Autistic Spectrum Disorder: A Mother's Perspective
With much life experience behind me, I feel I can share this very personal experience now. Some may disagree with my point of view, perhaps some will even think I'm eccentric. However, everyone has a gift to share--a gift to make this experience we call life a little easier, a little happier, and, perhaps,even glorious.
It is my hope that in sharing my viewpoint and experience that one or more of my readers will find something positive and uplifting from the reading--a new viewpoint, a comfort, or a resurgence of hope and optimism with respect to what modern psychiatry has categorized as the autistic spectrum disorder.
I feel I need to give a little background about myself to give you a perspective of where I get my experience and ideas.
I grew up in a northern climate in a rural area that was moderately remote. Yes, I am considered to be a baby boomer, having been born in 1952. That was a time after WWII when the economy of the United States was expanding, but, for many, there were memories of the war and the Great Depression.
My parents were practical people, growing and raising much of the family's food, and earning a living where they could. My father was a manual laborer, and my mother owned her own beer tavern business in partnership with her sister. I am a second generation American, with heritage from Czechoslovakia, Finland, and Germany. Some of my childhood language was mixed with Slavic words, and I didn't realize some of them weren't English until I reached the age of eight. Then, I had to catch myself once in awhile to make sure my friends could understand what I was saying. Usually it was a just a single word--a noun or an adjective.
Being close to the earth and raised on a farm, I felt close to nature. In fact, nature to me was my mother that nourished me. I spent a lot of time outdoors as a child walking around our 72-acre farm. I especially enjoyed the forest, the flower garden, and would spend hours weeding our vegetable garden. The weeds were given to the pigs, and thinned lettuce provided a treat for my geese. The chickens also enjoyed lettuce or pecking at watermelon rinds.
I can recall sitting all day watching over the newly arrived baby chicks or geese that had been delivered by the postal carrier.
When spring arrived, my face and hands would immediately begin to show tan. quite a contrast to my head of hair, which was nearly white, often described as tow-head.
Birth was a natural cycle of life's processes. Regeneration was everywhere on the farm--in the spring blossoms, the growing plants, the baby calves, piglets, a new puppy, kittens, baby chicks, ducklings, or goslings. Birth was always viewed as an exciting event.
Catholicism, Theosophy, Eastern Philosophy, and the Ascended Masters
At the age of six, I began receiving catechism lesson at the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a parochial school associated with the local Catholic church. Our community was fairly homogenous, mostly European descent and a comfortable variety of Christianity through Lutheran, Methodist, Latter-Day Saints, Presbyterian, and Baptist religions, in addition to the Catholic persuasion. Certainly, a dose of skeptics, even atheists,or non-church-goers comprised our community, but, above all, we were neighbors to one another. Generally, when someone needed help, a neighbor or members from a church were there to aid. This habit was as much practical as it was spiritual because when facing the adversities of the elements, neighbors almost had to stick together for survival.
By the time I had reached my teens, I became disenchanted with the Catholic church. Consequently, when I left home for college, I began reading books touching upon Eastern philosophy, many of the books being published by the Theosophical Society. One book, in particular, which I found an affinity was Concentration: An Approach to Meditation. Reading this book helped me to gain an understanding of how another individual's perception could be different than my own.
Experimentation with Diet
I became vegetarian at the age of 21. At first, the transition was a bit traumatic because my family was so set in the meat-and-potato diet typical of the area and the time. I eventually learned to accept others' choices about staying with their habits, although I believed that diet definitely had something to do with many degenerative diseases, as opposed to "just growing old."
The Rodale Health Finder, Adelle Davis, and Alice B. Chase were among the resources that reinforced my ideas about diet and helped me to follow my vegetarian preference.
I lived in San Francisco, California, after serving as a staff member at Hippocrates Health Institute (HHI) in Boston, Massachusetts, for six months. HHI was a bit extreme, perhaps, for my background, but I respected Dr. Ann Wigmore's mission to help victims overcome their afflictions of cancer. I approached the method with an open mind.The diet was totally raw food with freshly squeezed wheat-grass or comfrey drinks and raw salads consisting of in-house (organically) grown buckwheat lettuce and sprouts: alfalfa, mung bean, fennel, and sunflower. Salad dressings were either seed- or vegetable-based. Rejuvelac, a beverage derived from fermented wheat berries soaked in water, tamari, and other herbs were used to create a variety of salad dressings. What I observed about the diet was that my personal body energy operated at a higher vibration than when I was eating cooked food. The diet, however, was difficult to maintain without a support group--especially in cold winter months.
Once in San Francisco, my diet became mixed with cooked and raw foods, but still vegetarian. I accepted dairy products in my diet also, which were not a part of the HHI regime. I also began making trips to the Sivananda Center in Grass Valley, California. In 1978, I spend an entire month there. Both bhakti (devotional) and hatha (physical postures) yoga were practiced. After the ashram, I practiced hatha yoga on my own for an entire month, rising at 5:30 in the morning, taking a hot bath to relax my muscles, and going through sun salute, forward stretches, lotus, spinal twists, the locust, shoulder stand, the bridge, a head stand, balancing and relaxation poses for an hour-and-a-half. (Deep breathing and slow stretching are the keys used in hatha yoga). My physical body felt absolutely fantastic! But, this phase slowly faded as I became immersed in office work as a sales secretary and, later, as a professional temporary through Kelly Services.
Keepers of the Flame and the Summit Lighthouse
On May 1, 1985, I joined the Keepers of the Flame fraternity through the Summit Lighthouse, the teaching and publishing division of Church Universal and Triumphant, which was under the direction of Elizabeth Clare Prophet. The Teachings of the Ascended Masters East and West helped me to wed elements of my early Catholic faith with my newly adapted interests of Eastern philosophy and yoga. I no longer chose to condemn myself with having experimented with these seemingly divergent belief systems. The Path of the Ascension (the focus of the Teachings of the Ascended Masters) also included Buddhism. I now had it all--recognition of fairies, angels, and a respect for all paths leading back to the Creator.
With these interests and experiences in mind, I offer my experience with my daughter Ashley.
What is the Autistic Spectrum Disorder?
First of all, I am at odds with the term "disorder" anything. Yes, the universe exhibits more qualities of order than chaos; however, both are present in creation. The idea of psychology that labels are necessary to categorize people whose behavior is different from what is considered the social normal is arbitrary and ever changing. One diagnosis of a problem can easily conflict with another professional's diagnosis, and since everything is always in a state of creating balance or equilibrium, a condition is not really a problem at all, but a transitory state of becoming something greater.
I prefer to see autism (for lack of a better word) as a gift. Those persons exhibiting signs of autism ultimately see and experience the physical world and beyond a little differently than most people within modern society. Such people can give us insight into problems or situations that a normal person would not even consider.
The Mayo Clinic lists 29 points to assist a parent or guardian in deciding whether to have an individual evaluated. With Ashley, I was frustrated with delayed potty training and lack of verbalization. I would have been content, however, to continue one-on-one with her had my spouse not been pressuring me to return to the work force. Later, a mother of eight children advised that any difficulty with potty training under the age of five was normal. Ashley was assessed at age four and potty training was not an issue of consideration by the evaluating psychiatrist.
Assessment result: Mild to Moderate Symptoms of the Autistic Disorder Spectrum
Ashley was also evaluated by school psychologists to determine the appropriate preschool environment for her. Assessment result: Speech Delayed
Living in Torrance, California, at the time, Ashley entered the Launch Program through the Torrance School District. The program focused on children with varying degrees of potential learning drawbacks. Social skills, of course, were quite varied among the children in this program. One little boy seemed to be gazing into space while unaware of anyone or anything around him.
Do you or a family relative have symptoms in the autistic spectrum disorder?
Of all the materials I have read about autism, the following book presents the most holistic approach I encountered. I highly recommend it.
What is Asperger's Syndrome?
I had never heard of Asperger's until a psychological review of my daughter around age 15 when continued Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits were in question. Asperger's is actually a very mild form of autism and is sometimes referred to as high-functioning autism. My spouse actually had custody of Ashley when this term was used in reference to my daughter for the first time.
The following video requires reading text, but sections can be paused where long text appears or when the viewer wishes to repeat the text to think about it. Not all the thoughts fit Ashley's case, and some even apply to "normal" people.
Tip for Parents
Some states offer an additional benefit above SSI for in-home support assistance. The benefits may vary from state to state, and sometimes social workers are not even aware of this resource. The additional income is intended as support for the special needs individual and relief for the caregiver, who may use the benefit in any fitting manner. This particular benefit does have an age restriction.
Parenting Support and Obstacles
I was fortunate to be blessed with a sweet, gentle girl who happened to be nonverbal and frequently rocking and flapping her hands. To me, this gesture was an expression of enthusiasm, but I could see how in a group setting, such as school, this behavior would be a distraction.
In Torrance, California, I had the support of Harbor Regional Center and a nice caseworker. Harbor Regional lent me two interest-free $300 loans for Ashley's living expenses when between SSI benefits. These loans were repayable at a rate as low as $5 per month. In addition, the Center provided group meetings for parents with special-needs children where they could share their experiences and information.
Organizations with services similar to Harbor Regional can be found in nearly any city that has psychological services. In Tawas City, Michigan (my hometown), for example, AuSable Valley Community Mental Health (AVCMH) provides such services.
The greatest test I had as a parent occurred one day at school when Ashley allegedly began shouting, "She hit me! She hit me!" I got a call from the middle school while at work. "I legally am required to inform you that Ashley will be taken into police custody." No explanation. End of call. Later I was approached by a police officer at work. Without any objective questioning or consideration, he accused me of hitting my daughter and causing a bruise on her cheek. When I explained to him that she was autistic and referred to herself as "she," he stated that I was being sarcastic. I finished my day at work and took the bus home as I had no other transportation. My inner sense told me that Ashley would be home that evening and not to worry. Sure enough, a social worker brought her to my apartment. At the door, I asked, "Where is this bruise you have?" Ashley's face was clear. "She's not an abused child," the social worker stated. "I can tell that just by looking at her." Several months later, Ashley had to have a medical checkup at the request of Child Protective Services. The exam, of course, was of no consequence.
The second greatest test I had was losing my decent full-time insurance broker's assistant position due to the inability to change my childcare arrangement so I could take a insurance licensing classes and test.
The third greatest test was Ashley being put into a court-ordered group home and her father losing custody. Ashley had turned 18 and would not plan her very long walks. When she was picked up by a lady physician during one such walk, Ashley was dehydrated and confused. For some reason, the State of Michigan's Child Protective Services decided that her behavior was a threat to her well being and took the matter to the local court. The substitute judge who normally didn't decide such matters ordered Ashley be taken from her father James and put into a group home out of her community. James, Ashley, and I were in tears over that decision. We honored it, however, and several months later Ashley decided she wanted to stay in the home.
Yes, parenting an autistic child has its trials. Do not take these tests personally, but have faith that there is a greater good evolving for a purpose.
I chose to also share the following video due to its sensitivity and encouragement.
The narrator speaks directly to persons with Asperger's. The advice is helpful to anyone who is struggling with his or her purpose in life.
I have had my emotional trials raising Ashley, who is now 25 years of age and continues to live in a group home.
Although I had a life plan for her, I believed strongly in father's rights and the sacred function of the family as the foundation of society and civilization. It seems times are changing from this viewpoint where social services and the law prefer to criticize the family structure and take control. I don't approve of these changes, especially after all the hard work I put into raising Ashley (homework help, piano lessons, YMCA swimming lessons, church activities, and initiating a pediatrician-approved, gluten-free, casein-free diet).
I understand the human race is evolving, and the autistic spectrum disorder is not new (symptoms are documented in Edgar Cayce readings), but possibly a means for bringing civilization into a new awareness, a greater sensitivity. I look forward to the day when Ashley says, "Mom, I'd love to come visit you for Christmas." ~~~
© 2015 Marie Flint