In addition to April being Autism Awareness Month in the US, today is also World Autism Awareness Day. I will be highlighting certain things about Autism all month long in addition to the other stuff I talk about in this blog. As more and more children are diagnosed each day with some form of Autism, the world needs to wake up and figure out just what is going on. These children are amazing, creative, loving, brilliant children, some stuck without the ability to communicate all that is in their heads. The more I know about Matthew's Autism, the more I realize I don't know about other childrens' Autism necessarily. There is a saying, "once you know 1 person with Autism, you know 1 person with Autism". It is so easy to look at the news stories or Dr. Phil or whatever media outlet is trying to sensationalize the disorder du jour but really, each person living with Autism has different challenges. Not all people with Autism are non verbal, not all of them bang their heads and rock back and forth, not all of them avoid social contact, not all of them want to be alone all the time. There is a new face of Autism, pretty much the child next door.
Autism is a neurological disorder. Just as the brain is a compex network, Autism can be just as compex. Certain things may effect one child that don't another child. Matthew has extra sensitive hearing and perseverates (focuses, obsesses) on sounds, like the lawn mower outside or a truck driving by. If a fan is on, the sound of it blowing can distract him from his school work. He cannot differentiate that doing his school work is more important than that sound and therefore, ignore it. He also craves vestibular input (jumping, swinging, hanging upside down). Matthew has low tone in his body and face which makes chewing somewhat difficult and mealtimes often torturous. He also dislikes certain food textures which adds to the fun. The bottom line is that Autism is as unique as the individual living with it. But one thing remains true, integrating into "normal" society can be challenging, regardless of the severity. Our society is built up heirarchies and "fitting in". That can be very hard for people who have certain things going on in their brains that others do not. OCD and anxiety often go hand in hand with Autism as well.
On the flip side, now that we are immersed in Autism as it relates to our family, we have found ways to look at the situation with humor. And, other people with Autism (especially adults!) also often find humor in their compulsions. Here are some funny things we've seen/read, although I warn you, you may need to be intimately aware of Autism to get some of these:
1) Yes, I have Autism, stare if you must, I am not paying attention to you anyways.
2) Eye contact is overrated.
3) Be patient with me now and I will be kind to you when I write my book.
4) Autism never sleeps (so my mom is cranky).
5) My child has Autism, your questions are encouraged, but your parenting advice is not (unless you also have a child with Austism) **** My favorite one!!
6) My child has Autism, what the hell is wrong with YOUR kid?
7) Autism effects 1 in 150, but I think my son is 1 in a million!! ****My other favorite!!
8) If at first you don't succeed, perseverate!