Friday, October 28, 2011

Autism Stinks

Some people, who don't know my kids that well, might think they are weird or are being rude when they don't acknowledge or make eye contact with them when they say hi to my kids. It's very hard to explain to people, who don't want to learn, that my kids are not being rude and that they suffer from a disorder called Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Asperger Syndrome is a form of autism. "Big A" has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder with Asperger Syndrome as the standout. He is doing his best to be a "normal" kid. To help him in class, he has some extra help so he can stay on task and is getting extra help for reading.

He was around seven years old when we had him tested and discovered what was going on with him. The psychologist told us that "Big A's" scores came back as positive for a mild case of autism, I was crushed. No parent wants to hear that their child will probably struggle for the rest of their life. I took it pretty hard and I didn't want to break down in front of the guy who just told me my kid was "different".

I went home, started doing research on the disorder and decided that I would NOT treat him any differently. I would do what it took to get him through this and get him the help he needed to live a "normal" life.Or what I thought was a normal life. Little did I know that I would learn so much from a boy who only saw himself as normal.

I worked for two years to get him a para-professional to help keep him on task in class and I also started the process of getting him an IEP. His IEP is so he could get speech, social work and special services (it's called Resource Room. They help him with reading and if he needs help understanding his homework).

He is in fourth grade today (three years after he was diagnosed) and holds an A average. He is smart, caring and helpful. He signed up to be a safety and has made several friends, which he would have NEVER done before getting him some help. He has his days where he just zones out but for the most part, he is a pretty awesome kid.

"Little A" is six and he was diagnosed with ADHD when he was four. He is our spitfire. Very spirited that one is. He really has no filter when it comes to his mouth, which we are working on.

I'm really surprised that he hasn't injured himself yet. He has no fear when it comes to climbing on stuff and jumping off. Me on the other hand, I'm terrified of heights.

So far, "Little A" hasn't been diagnosed with any forms of autism but I know he is suffering from some kind of learning disorder. He is having a really hard time with the who, what, when, where, why questions and he gets frustrated very easily.

His teacher last year said that she classified him as OHI (Other Health Impairment). The term other health impairment (OHI) refers to physical or mental impairments which can affect a child’s performance at school. He gets speech therapy and some Resource Room help but not as much as his brother.

I think it's very important for family, friends, and teachers to be well educated on the different forms of autism.  I also think it's very important for anyone who has contact with a child who has a learning problem to learn how to approach the child. If you have a harsh or angry approach, they are going to shut down or have a meltdown. You have to have a calm, soft approach and you have to be EXTREMELY patient with them.

If you don't see the child that often, it's going to be more difficult for the child to open up or to feel comfortable enough to interact with you. It doesn't matter if you are a relative or if you are a caregiver. The child has to feel comfortable and safe. To them, you are a stranger. Try spending more time with the child in a neutral setting and be consistent with the visits. Once every couple of months or once every year is not going to cut it.

Which brings us to schedules. Schedules become a necessity when you have children with autism. Be prepared to deal with breakdowns if you happen to change the schedule. These types of children LOVE their schedules and don't do very well with change. If your schedule does change, try to prepare your child for it. I suggest preparing at least two weeks in advance. It helps them adjust to the changes that are about to happen and the transitions are much smoother. 

Autism Speaks is a great organization that offers support and different resources for parents and family members. To learn more about how you can help support a family member who is raising or living with autism, go to autismspeaks.org.






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