Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A Glimpse of What Autism Looks Like for Us

In light of today being Autism Awareness Day I thought I would give you a glimpse of what Autism looks like for our son.  Our son is on the Autism Spectrum.  My knowledge of Autism was very limited before I began researching.  Every child/adult on the spectrum can be very different from each other.  Our son has High Functioning Autism/Aspergers/Autism Spectrum Disorder...whichever you choose to call it, it is Autism.  If you are acquaintances, but not in relationship with him, you would never suspect that he may different than other children.

Our son plays hard, he loves well, he enjoys building things, he loves to read, he loves to learn new things, he is quite bright and the list could go on.  Autism does not define who our son is, but it better helps us understand the way he sees the world.  For our son, it is difficult to see others feelings or emotions.  He may not understand that you are joking with him, or just stating an opinion, or if you raise your voice in excitement he may think you are angry.  Just yesterday, my husband was showing our son a video that said YouTube was going to end as it was all a contest to find the best video.  Our son didn't get the joke, he truly believed what they said in the video was true.  When we explained it to him, he just went on about his business without even the slightest of amusement.  If someone says something, even if it is all false, he may take it as truth.  He is quite black and white and there is no room for gray as it doesn't make any sense to him and because of this he may try to argue his point with whomever.  It has to be one or the other.  Another area that he struggles with is sensory issues.  If something is too bright he may overreact and cover his eyes, if something is too loud he may cover his ears and scream suddenly startling those around him, if something smells offensive to him you are guaranteed to hear about it, our son loves to touch and feel things and especially loves to be hugged(as long as you let him know you are going to do it first and he is ready for it), if he gets hurt you may think he has lost a limb and last but not least is taste.  Taste/texture/temperature of food is one of his toughest struggles.  He has a very sensative gag reflex and can be difficult for him to eat those textures that cause the reflex.  Meal times are one of our biggest struggles.  It makes it very difficult to visit friends at mealtimes, go out to eat or invite friends over at mealtimes.  He loves to move!  If you see our son out in public you may see him hopping, jumping, spinning or rolling around on the floor(yes, he has done all of these things in the grocery store, lol). He is in constant motion while he is awake and it somehow releases tension in his body(he personally says it just feels good to him).  Changing routine can sometimes be hard on him.  Today is the first day of state testing for him at his school.  We had warned him that he would not be staying up until his usual time of 9:00 to read, so if he wanted to read before bed he better do it earlier.  When it was time for bed, he cried for 20 minutes stating that he didn't understand why he couldn't read, even though we gave him the why.  He just kept saying how he had to read and he couldn't go to sleep without reading.  It took a bit for him to calm and accept that he wasn't going to read, but he did it.  He accepted it and went to sleep.  It may have been easier just to let him read for 10-15 minutes rather than go through 20 minutes of a meltdown, but how does he learn that it's okay if routines change?  Tonight, he will read earlier so he doesn't miss out on the opportunity again, lol.

Those are things we deal with on a regular basis with him, but there is also a positive side of his Autism.  This boy is smart!  He sometimes has a calculator type brain and can add, subtract, multiply, divide and much more in his head.  He can come up with answers much faster than I can.  His love for reading is unquenchable.  He has read more books in his little life than I have possibly read in mine.  It is quite difficult finding age appropriate, healthy books for him to read.  The good thing about his reading is that we can refer to some of the character traits of some of the characters he is reading about and use them in every day, real life situations.  He has an incredible memory!  He remembers things that happened years ago, with vivid detail.  He hardly has to study for tests at all because once he hears something(as long as he's listening and not talking to a neighbor) he retains it.  He loves academics!  His thirst for learning is also unquenchable.  If there is something we don't know, he wants to look it up and research.  So many times in school, his teacher has to get him out of research mode and get to the recording of the research mode.  He can have a very grown up like  conversation with you and has an extensive vocabulary.  Some of the words he has used I have never used.  He enjoys building and creating things.  Legos have been his all time favorite thing.  He has spent countless time building and creating the most creative things.  I love challenging him to build something and see what he comes up with.  He really enjoys when I or dad or his siblings play Legos with him (unless they are messing up his space or using the peices he needs).  He will play with most any kid.  Age doesn't matter to him.  He may not look you in the eye when you are talking to him, but he hears everything you are saying and soaks it up.

I'm so thankful to have the opportunity to be blessed by this little guy!  He has taught me how to slow down and think about how I say things and how it may sound to him.  He has taught me how to be more patient and understanding.  He has taught me how to love even more unconditionally!  This boy is quite an amazing kid!  He will do well in life and I am looking forward to see where his journey takes him.  Just the other day we told our son that our job as parents is to raise him so that he can grow up and be able to live life without mom and dad telling him how to do things.  I think it turned on a light in his head to know that we are not the enemy, but only there to help him along in this journey called life.

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