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Autism Times Two
Autism Times Two
Autism is the fastest growing childhood developmental disability in the United States. It is more frequent than childhood cancer. One in one hundred-fifty children are born with it, and the numbers are climbing.
In the summer months of 1992, I went to the Gyn, because I knew I was pregnant. While under the sonogram handheld device, the nurse became excited and told a few other nurses to come and look at the sonogram screen. I was looking too, but did not see what the excitement was all about.
The nurse came over and held my hand and told me while showing me two little specks, that I was going to have twins. My immediate reaction was not joy, but it was my second reaction.
In the early part of the year 1993, I gave natural birth to two wonderfully handsome twin boys, Jared and Jeremy. Jeremy was born plump, while Jared was a little on the slim side. (Both are still the same, one plump and the other slim)
They progressed like any other child, big bright eyes looking at their strange world. They were lifting their heads looking about. I had learned to bottle feed both at the same time and burp them at the same time. But had a time getting them to fall asleep at the same time, and of course could only change them one at a time.
As they got even older, they started babbling and crawling, discovering new things in their tiny world. They were attracted to color and shiny things. Even though neither looked me directly in the eyes, I never knew it was an important sign, they were usually stacking their wooden blocks I bought them, or playing with their other toys and well I thought nothing big of it.
Jeremy started walking at ten months, and Jared because he was jealous, did so two days after. It seemed at that time Jeremy was quicker to learn new things and soon after Jared would follow. If you could have seen the look on Jeremy's face when he was teaching himself to walk, (yes teaching himself) you would have thought he found the cure for all dieases in the world. I just sat and watch and did a lot of laughing. And to my surprise he taught himself in one day. ONE DAY!!
At this age LOOK for the signs of Autism. Are they looking you in the eye? Or are they avoiding your glance? Do soft or moderate sounds cause them to react by putting their hands over their ears?
Pay Close Attention To Your Child.
Even though the signs are not clearly seen at birth. It is crucial to an autistic child to get the help he or she needs starting in their infant and toddler years. From birth to five years are the most critical part of a child growth. This is the time when the child learns the most and the fastest. And it tends to lessen after that. The child will still learn but not at the same rate as in his or her toddler years. That is why it is so important to grasp that moment fiercely and began the process that can help your child to become his or her very best.
The symptoms of autism will vary in each child, some will have the severe form, the moderate form or the mild form of autism. But then there would be some that will have a little combination of all the forms. That is why it is also called Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Example: When light shine through a prism it produces colors that blend with each other that sometimes you don't know when one color stops and another begins. That is the same with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Some children will be brilliant in one area and have great difficulty in others. Or some will have only slight disabilities in all areas. Then others may have incredible math skills but difficulties in all other areas. No one child will be the same.
I thought they were progressing well, until both turned the age of twenty-three months. Now all they did was babble, point and cry. I had to actually figure out what they wanted, or understand why they were crying. Sometimes they would have brief eye contact while crying.
Certain noises would upset them so much that sometimes they were uncontrollable.They would quickly cover their ears as if the sounds were harming them and would run in any direction. Some of the noises were ventilation fans, flushing toilets, and the school fire alarm system.
Jeremy seem unable to function well unless something was in his mouth, a quarter, a nickel. He would find anything small to put in his mouth and would suck on it all day.
Jared however would salivate so much that it became too much to deal with. I had to give him lots of water to make sure he did not dehydrate.
They both always played alone. They both would laugh and or giggle for no reason at all.
I took them to the Infant Intervention Program in the state I lived in, and started them in preschool and also to the DEC aka The Developmental Evaluation Center. Soon after many tests I was told that my precious boys were Autistic. Both of them. I was given pamphlets and told a little about it. But I had to do alot of research to find out what was going on with my babies.
While faithfully keeping all of their appointments, I was quickly learning what I could do to help my boys. There were techniques that the Infant Intervention Program, told me to do at home with my boys. They were patient and demonstrate several techniques that could help my twins. I did it faithfully. With practice, Jared stopped salivating and was in complete control within three weeks. And I did not need to worry about Jeremy putting things in his mouth in even less time.
My boys were born at the time when Autism was just that, Autism. So I don't know if they are considered as having a mild or moderate autism. It was never discussed with me in full detail in any meeting. And I did not hear of Autism spectrum Disorder back then. But I know my sons did not have the severe form of autism, I have seen severe.
But I do know that they both had severe to mild delays in many areas of development. They both had unintelligible speech, difficulty comprehending instructions, fleeting eye contact, problems with gross and fine motor skills. They could not associate a word with the item. Ex: The word "car" with the object toy car, and many other problems.
Jeremy was diagnosed as having severely delayed receptive language skills, moderate delay early congnitive skills. And delays in fine and gross motor skills. I was told he was functioning in the ten month range at the age of two years and eleven months.
Jared was diagnosed as having moderate delays in speech and language development, mild in other areas. He also had problems with his fine and gross motor skills. And he was diagnosed as functioning at the fourteen month level at the age of two year and eleven months.
Don't Give Up!
If you notice the signs of Autism, immediately seek help. The earlier you get started the better it is for your child.
There is help, hope, and support out there! Faithfully continue to keep your child's appointments, you will see progress that will make the trips worth the while.
Get A Copy
When you take your child to the Infant Intervention Program, The Early Intervention Program, The Developmental Evaluation Center get a copy of your child's assessment, or evaluation report. It will be important to teachers, counselors, and others who will work with your child.
As they grew older, the twins both turned to drawing. Both amazed me, and other members of my family with their abilities. Jeremy can add, multiply, and subtract with out needing a pencil and paper to write down the problem. People would come up to him and ask him something like "what is twenty-three times six"( or any other math problem), give him about ten seconds out pops the correct answer. From my studies on autism, it seems that all autistic children have some type of extraordinary talent. You just have to find them.
Both Jeremy and Jared have the ability to retain what they learn. (It is good to keep the things you do not wish them to learn out of sight and mind, it could develope into bad habits) I never had to re-teach them anything that they have already learned in school or elsewhere. Autistic children are truly gifted.
Even though they were both autistic, I did not give in to their disabilities. Meaning: I did not keep them home away from people. Instead I traveled with them, visit family and friends with them by my side. I talk to them contantly, while standing in front of them. I would place objects or foods that they wanted in front of my face to force them to look at me. This was an everyday thing with me. Instead of giving them what they wanted I would ask them to tell me what they wanted. I would say the word over and over and if they say even the first syllable in the word, I would give them the object or food. But I never took them to the point of disappointment. It is good to never frustrate your autistic child.
Support Their Interest!
Whatever they become interested in, back them up. It is a big part of getting them to improve upon themselves, to come out of their shell. You will see them talking and sharing more and more.
Six Years And Two Months
Both of my boys are toilet trained now. It was difficult. They could go on their own, but needed to reminded, and watched. The ventilation fans MUST stay off.
They both knew their shapes, could count to twenty, (but could not associate the word with the number). Both knew their colors and amazingly recognized the letters of the alphabet. But there were differences, in behavior and learning in other areas. They both can look into your eyes a lot longer now, it was still called fleeting eye contact.
Jared was a little withdrawn, not wanting to be bothered. But he would do the work set before him if prompted to do so. Anyone who dealt with him needed extreme patience.
Jeremy was open and happy. He would try to please the teachers and staff. And he would walk off with any stranger that approached him. But that is another lens all to itself.
The flood waters of Hurricane Floyd displace our family for several years. We were hopping from school district to school district, because most of the homes were not fit for inhabitation. I had to move to another state to give my family stability. It was hard on the whole family. Jared and Jeremy were champs through the whole thing, so were my other children. Because of this set back, their education suffered some.. Adjusting to new schools were hard for all my children, but much more so for my twin boys.
Adjustment to a new school is difficult for any child. But much worse for autistic children. Sometimes sticking around for a bit until the child get comfortable helps. Bring one of their favorite toys.
The school district we lived in at the time did not have the programs that my boys had grown use to. All support was gone.
(A shortage of teachers, and some teachers taught more than one subject)
The school just had teachers who taught regular classes and special classes. Most would complain about the boys. Some teachers would ask me what is autism after I informed them. Speech was gone, special aid for my boys were gone. I felt like I was stripped of all my clothes and left there hanging. I did not go to school to meet the teachers on Open House the next year. I felt going would be meaningless.
So I just continued with the things that their teachers from the past did with them. Mostly the same things that most parents do with their own children, but broken down so that they can understand. Also I used flash cards in the areas of math, language, writing. What I could not find, I made them up.
I even bought a small chalk board to help teach them. Just getting them to learn new things was the hardest. Sometimes it would be easy, other times long, hard and exhausting. For me.
But once learned, Jared and Jeremy retain most of what they have learned, thank god! But speech was a whole different ball game. I would make them repeat words that they would pronounce incorrectly, until they could pronounce it well enough for other to understand it.
I would demonstrate how to form the words with my mouth and make them repeat it.
Same school district.
A few days after Open House, both Jeremy and Jared would come home from school and ask me a million questions. It just came on all of the sudden. It was as if those flower buds in their minds just upped and decided to bloom one after another.
As soon as they get home from school its "Mama what does "quest" mean?". Mama what does this word or that word mean. They would follow me around, stand beside me while I was cooking, walk beside me in the store, with question pouring out of their mouths. They would never ask the same question twice. Sometimes I would look around at their siblings and wonder why don't they throw some of these question at them. But it felt good to hear them come alive with so many inqueries. Made me a proud mom that they wanted to learn.
One day, after a month and a half of questions, I just had to go to the school to find out what is different to cause a reaction like what the boys were going throu, and I ended up talking to a wonderful teacher,
When I walked into her classroom, I knew where the questions were coming from. I would see the objects, pictures and names, words all over her classroom. They were everywhere. There was not one place you look without education either slapping or staring you back in your face. Pictures that make you want to ask why, what, how?
I took this idea home but not on the grand scale that she had. Here is an example: A picture of an apple with a worm inside. NOT a cartoon mind you. A PICTURE. (They wanted to know how did it get in there?) A round object call a sphere with the words sphere written under it. To them it is a circle, but what is a sphere? I always use flash cards with them, but they are nothing compared to what I saw. Then there were words all around the room, the same words that had bombarded me everyday after school.
This teacher had a unique way of handling my boys. She was patient, she did not push them, force them, but she taught in a way that made them open up. She use a tool I had never used before, that tool is "curiousity".
Even though Jared was slowly coming out of his shell a little during the year, he was progressing.. Not many teacher have this gift of understanding and patience. I was blessed. Jared was blessed to have met her. Jared came home talking more. But still not as much as I wanted. But I was grateful, and thankful for what I've got.
Well we sat and talked about the boys and about all those questions I was drowining in. Guess what she told me to do? She said, "get a dictionary and make them look up the words." In other words I should stop finding the words for them and let them do for themselves.
(You would have thought I would have known that. Sometimes parents of autistic children feel that they must teach their child everything. But it is not so. You must allow a child to reach out to help himself also. You cannot do everything alone.)
I did what she told me. It was difficult at first. I explained that they must find the word by alphabetical order. After a few weeks, they were almost able to find most words themselves, thanks to their older brother and sister helping out. Even now when they ask, what does this means, I would smile and say those magic words, "go get the dictionary and look it up". (I believe it was she that got some of my boys special aid back).
The Best Help
Sometimes the best help can come from people whose heart is truly full of love for children, but also have a firm but creative hand on education.
Pictures Are A Great Teaching Tool.
Try to get pictures that raises a child's curiosity. Not only will they come to you full of questions. But they will comprehend and understand and grow. The more questions they ask, The more they are learning.
Jeremy, (16yrs) has been an honor roll student for more than two years. But he always made good grades in school. He is now in regular classes. He wants to be a chef, I guess because of his love for food. I believe he will turn vegetarian when he gets older because he loves veggies more than meat. Jeremy loves puzzles and puzzle games. He saves money so easily that his older sister gets jealous.
Jared, (16yrs) still plunges into his hand and computer drawings. He wants to be an artist, and an computer game creator. He is hard to beat at adventure and battling games. He loves to be Jeremy's food taster. He makes his own comic books. He still has difficulty socializing but slowly becoming more outspoken.
We now have discussions, family debates both Jeremy and Jared participate. (Jared a little less) They both love hugs from anyone. :) They get mad and upset just like the rest of the family but they handle it well.
They both have gotten over they fear of ventilation fans and flushing toilet. THANK GOD!:)
You Are Not Alone
Those with autistic children know what you are going through. Know that you are not alone.
But be aware that as the years progress, you will see that they may need your help less and less.
But will need your love forever.
Why This Lens?
I wrote this lens to allow a small window to the world of autism to open. Hoping that this will create a better understanding and insite to those with infants with or without autism.
To show it won't be easy, but that your hard work will benefit your child. Hoping that it will move a parent to be on the lookout for autism early.
Also to thank all those wonderful, hardworking, patient, and understanding people out there who help my twin boys and so many others.
The Best Way To Learn About Autism
More Resources For Autism and Disabled Children and Adults
More Resources For Autism and Disabled Children and Adults
www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/dd/aic/resources They have a links for more information on Autism on their Autism Information Web Page.
www.nichcy.org (1-800-695-0285) They will help you to find someone to assist you in your area. National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)
Teaching Tips for Children and Adults with Autism