Resources for Autism
When the children first came to us, four years ago, our boy showed possible markers for Autism.
His records show he was mostly non-verbal and knew about 10 words at age 3. He couldn’t tolerate certain lights, noises, too many people, some textures (food and clothing). He couldn’t hold eye contact. We couldn’t touch him unless he initiated; he was very good at moving quickly out from under our hands. No hugs, no holding, no gentle pats. And he screamed. Oh, the screaming.
I’ve just finished Temple Grandin‘s book, Thinking in Pictures. She answers a question I’ve had for four years. “If kids are so sensitive to noise, why can they be so loud?” The key is the range of tones and frequencies; some just aren’t tolerable, while others are no problem. The child isn’t screaming in the intolerable frequency. Also (which I’d suspected), some of the hypersensitivity may be tied to the unexpectedness. A screaming child has at least a brief moment in which the brain knows “gonna scream.” External noise, however, isn’t pre-announced in most instances. Mystery solved. Thanks, Temple!
These days, he still has a few quirky moments but tends to be fine with all of the above. He’s very talented at building anything out of well, anything (and does so during every free moment), and he’s been obsessed with WWII for about a year. His teacher and I both sometimes wonder, but counselors say we’re seeing PTSD symptoms.
Regardless of “official” diagnosis, as I’ve interacted with these special kids, I’ve become convinced that we sell them short. In TIP, Temple makes several comparisons between children with Autism and “normal” children. Since she’s also Autistic, I guess she has the right to say it. As far as I’m concerned, though, there’s no such thing as normal (except as a setting on my washing machine). Every child is gifted in some way. Each one will struggle to overcome difficulty. Autistic kids are special, and I don’t mean special ed.
Autistic children have more challenges, I agree, but in this case milestones become even more of a celebration. You may read this and click the little red X to close the blog, angry that I’d suggest Autism is a blessing. Maybe it’s not. But the children dealing with it ARE.
On a day-to-day basis, as a parent, Autism may seem like an affliction, a punishment, a demon. And again, maybe it is. But the child isn’t. Even in the worst times, there are moments of joy. Back when I was convinced of his condition (he was 94% likely to be Autistic, per the psych evaluation, although it was not an “official” diagnosis), first thoughts were of his future.
We advocated and pleaded with school officials and
threatened cajoled social service delinquents workers to ensure his school services would not be diminished (due to behavior, the initial response from the school was “he’s not ready, cut him to half-day”). We tracked down and utilized every possible community resource (which ultimately provided us an in-home counselor and day treatment options). Every moment of every day was a lesson in reading, math and social skills.
It was exhausting.
The intervention (unfortunately not early, thanks to the incompetence of social services and either ignorance or apathy on the part of foster parents) continues, but he needs less each year. Thanks to great reading support at our current school (where he’s been for two years) and die-hard summer reading, we’ve seen this progression:
Age 5, Kindergarten: didn’t know the alphabet
Age 6, First Grade: couldn’t read simple 3-letter words
Age 7, Second grade: read on a pre-K level
Age 8, Third grade: reads consistently on a 4th grade level and can sound out 5th grade words, usually with comprehension once he “gets” it. Wants to know the meaning and use of any word he doesn’t recognize.
Temple mentions her ability to decode words thanks to phonics; I see the same in our guy. Once he gets a sound, he usually recognizes it elsewhere. “Weird” words that don’t follow the rules irritate him. I remind him that he doesn’t always follow rules, either…
So, per our current counselor, our guy is not on the spectrum. Maybe he’s right. I don’t really know how children with Autism progress. I’m not a professional. On the other hand, in the spectrum of light, some colors are invisible to the naked eye. I would not be surprised to find he’s on a similar end of the spectrum, but I’m not fighting for a confirmation. For now, we’re more worried about making sure we meet his specific needs as they surface.
This week, a friend learned his son has Autism, no question, so I pulled together a list of links for them. As of today, all of these links work. Click below!
If you have an child on the spectrum (or know one), I also recommend that you check out Thinking in Pictures on Audible.com; if you don’t already have an account, the first book is free (just don’t forget to cancel if you don’t want to pay for the subscription). The narrator is phenomenal.
Posted on June 5, 2015, in Resources and tagged ADHD, Asperger's, autism, delay, high functioning, hyper-sensitive, Kanner's, low functioning, nonverbal, PDD, sensory, Temple Grandin, verbal. Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.