Image via WikipediaSince April is almost over, I have to confess that I have been somewhat remiss in mentioning that April is Autism Awareness Month. As I have mentioned before, my son is autistic, as is one of my nephews. Since my son was recently home from school for spring break, I want to talk a little bit about autism, how it has affected our lives, and a little of his progress at his new school.
Autism is a complex neurological disorder that is characterized by a impaired social interaction and communication. Those who suffer from autism display a lot of repetitive behaviors and rote communication. According to AutismSpeaks.org, it is estimated that 1 in 110 children will be diagnosed with some form of autism. It is more prevalent in boys. As I said, my son ani
Those with autism display a lot of repetitive behaviors. My son likes to listen to music or watch videos. He will listen to the same song over and over again, and not the whole song. When watching videos he will play a few seconds, then rewind to watch those same few seconds over and over again. I remember taking a family vacation once where we drove from the DC area to the beach in North Carolina. For about the whole 8 hour drive, my son wanted to listen to Kenny Chesney's "When the Sun Goes Down" for just about the whole trip. Each time he started it over, he asked me to sing.
Change to routine is very hard on a person with autism. With our son, there are certain activities that he associates with me, and others he associates with his mom. He also tends to compartmentalize certain things. For example, we have been trying to get him to drink milk out of a regular cup instead of a sippy cup. He is perfectly capable of drinking out of a regular cup; he will drink water from a cup. However, in his mind, milk belongs in a sippy cup because he has always drank milk from a sippy cup. He refuses to drink milk from a regular cup.
My son and his water drinking is a bit of a triumph. He stops at just about any water fountain to take a drink of water. At home, he will often go to a bathroom sink, turn on the water, and drink directly from the tap as if it were a fountain. During spring break, I gave him a styrofoam cup with water in it to drink from. After he drank the water, he apparently wanted more and headed upstairs to the bathroom sink. Instead of drinking from the tap, he refilled his cup and drank from it. I was so proud. We take great pleasure in these small victories.
Like any disorder, the severity and symptoms can vary from person to person. Some people with autism are completely non-verbal. My son, on the other hand, never seems to stop talking. For the most part, his language is not typical conversation. For example, if he wants to tell you something, he will usually phrase it in the question. If he knows we are going to go to a baseball game, he will ask us, "Where are we going on Saturday?" I will usually say, "I don't know," and ask him the question again. He will then respond, "We are going to the Baysox game."
These are just a few of the challenges that we as a family and so many other families are facing in dealing with autism. There are so many other symptoms and struggles that we deal with on a daily basis. With so many children being diagnosed with autism it is becoming more difficult for people to not know somebody affected by autism. Still, so many do not understand or comprehend that a child with autism does not view the world the same as they do, nor are they able to understand that the behavior of an child with autism is a response to the different way they process their surroundings.