some things to remember about Autism
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word "Autism"? Disability. Non-functioning. Hardship. No communication. Now, here is what I want you to do...put all of those notions out of your head right now.
Autism, at it's core, is a complex disorder of brain development. There may or may not be social interaction difficulties, such as inappropriate laughter or talk when in a public place. There are usually issues with verbal and nonverbal communication, such as not being able to understand what is being said or having problems with speech. And oftentimes, there is the presence of repetitive behaviors, such as twirling or hand waving.
It's not contagious and it's not deadly. It is simply a different mode of development than that of someone who is not Autistic or on the Autism Spectrum Disorder.
Autism usually emerges as seen by parents between two and three years of age, and affects 1 in every 68 children. For boys the rate is increased by 4.5%; thus 1 in every 42 boys will be diagnosed with Autism while that numbers decrease 1 in every 189 for girls. In the United State of America, roughly 2 million individuals face a disorder on the Autistic Spectrum Scale.
http://www.autismspeaks.org is an excellent website for more information on Autism, including statistics, early screening, genetics, etc.
Continued Research and Learning
Although there is no one single cause for Autism, much research has been done, continues to still be done. Education of Autism takes a high priority all over the world. There have been great strides made; but, many more strides that need to be taken. There is ample evidence to support rare gene changes, or mutations, along with high risk Autistic genes. Sometimes environmental factors have played a part in a child being Autistic (the age of both parents at the time of conception, any illnesses that the mother may have had during pregnancy). One thing to remember is that no one should ever be blamed for the child being Autistic or "on the spectrum". No one should ever feel guilty; every child, and I mean EVERY child is a blessing.
You wonder how I can say this, and mean it...well... My daughter, 7, is Autistic. My husband, Mark, and I have run the full gamut of emotions and feelings, including guilt and shame. We struggle some days still, simply because we see everyday how hard it can be for her in so many areas of her life.
Being "on the spectrum" present a person with many challenges; but, each individual is unique. There can be exceptional abilities within the visual realm, there are those "on the spectrum" who are musically and/or academically inclined, some show above average intellectual capabilities. Being "on the spectrum", however, can pose more serious disadvantages. There are those individuals who are not able and cannot live independently due to more significant disabilities and close to 25% of those diagnosed "on the spectrum" are nonverbal.
Full of Life, Love and Laughter
Pictured to the right is our daughter, Alana. Does she look "Autistic"? Does she have a look about her that says there's something different about her?
To an outsider, someone who doesn't know her diagnosis, after watching her, she would seem like a "brat". She often has "melt downs" (akin to a temper tantrum). She faces many challenges with each turning of the clock; but, with lots of help from her dad and I, bi-weekly counseling sessions and medication, she is able to "function" within "normal" limits to do things she must, such as school work (she is home schooled), playing with her brother and other children, playing video games and watching television.
Mark and I first started noticing developmental delays when she was still in diapers; banging her head on her bassinet and later her crib and meeting infant milestones later than normal (sitting up, crawling, walking) were especially indicative of a potential problem. She did not take her first steps until she was 14 months old, and it was another four months before she could walk well on her own. As the months progressed, she showed some severe speech impediments. Of course her pediatrician referred her for an auditory exam, which came back fine. At which time she was sent for speech therapy services twice a week until she was four. She still talks with a moderate lisp, and when she doesn't want to talk she doesn't (we are learning sign language to help her in communicating without verbal words). She takes daily medication to aid with underlying issues such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). [ If medication is not the road for you take with your child, that is your decision. I would only recommend that you research possible medications and discuss thoroughly any concerns about medication with your child's pediatrician.] One of the major challenges in her life is her night-time wetting. She has to wear a pullup for bed every night meaning she doesn't like to going to other people's homes for over nights. Alana also deals with a textile aversion; she hates to have wear clothing, especially long sleeve shirts and jackets. And to add to her daily challenges is a noise aversion; our home stereo does not get played often and there are times when our normal talking voices are even too loud for her.
On the flip side, Alana is one of the most giving and caring young girls I know of. Okay, so, maybe I'm a little biased with being her mom. Seldom are her dad or I able to hug and/or kiss her, we have to usually wait for her to come to us; but, she does. And when she does, she gives with everything she has to give with. She is like that with everything...she gives and gives and seldom wants anything in return.
On the rare occasion...
Alana does not handle social situations very well; but, does play quite well in the safe confines of our home and property. Not a moment goes by, though, that her actions during play are not guarded. There are those rare occasions when we can see the twinkle in her eye and the life in her soul.