This could have been anyone’s child. Except my child with autism would never have done that. Some with it and some without it would think nothing of kneeling down to play in a puddle, wearing his galoshes, holding his umbrella. At that age (judging by size) my boy couldn’t have gotten out of the rain quickly enough, it was like he would melt. The only way you could get him to venture out at all was if he had to go to the bus for school or from the bus.
Just as is true of “typical” people, those with autism vary greatly. One thing almost all have in common is difficulty in social interactions. I doubt there are many people now who haven’t heard the words “spectrum disorder” associated with autism. While I know how that came to be, I prefer “If you’ve met one child or adult with autism, you’ve met one child or adult with autism” italicized words are mine because my son is now an adult. This is not something that goes away. It is a life long disorder, but many services for those with autism stop when they graduate or finish school. Not all qualify for a diploma at the end of their school season, in the school year in which they turn 21. Then what? It depends on where you live. I worked for a while as a paraprofessional at a school for disabled students who couldn’t be taught in mainstream schools. Sometimes it was because of the severity of the student’s disability (often autism in this setting, but not always) and sometimes it was the lack of knowledge and training in teaching these individuals in their local district schools. One classroom I worked in had a man who would graduate that year who was completely non-verbal, did the stereotypical hand flapping and toe walking that is usually associated with young people. And he was dangerous; though he may have had a co-occurring disorder, I don’t know. Another who would graduate that year did the same thing with me every day, he tried to identify coins. In the spectrum disorder model these would most certainly be low-functioning.
My son also attended that school. His description in the same scale was high-functioning by then. Though when he was much younger, he too was violent, non-verbal when others his age were chatterboxes, used people (me if I was available) as tools to get what he wanted. He would take me by the hand, drag me to where what he wanted was, point our hands and make noises. Like many with autism (and many other problems) he had extreme sensory issues. He felt gentle touch as pain and very firm touch was comfortable. One couldn’t just gently touch his arm without him going into a tirade, but firmly grasp his shoulder and that was fine. He only ate 3 foods at a time, brand specific, with some rotation, Cheerios being constant, until he was 9 years old. And that only started because his asthma doctor, a wonderful man who loved every patient and parent, and all loved him, joined with me in tricking my son into expanding his horizon to include, of all things with nutritional value, Ensure. yuk But from there we were able in a group effort including school and doctors, to get him to eat a better variety. Now, he has preferences, as we all do, but he eats textures and tastes that were only a dream for us in his younger years.
These are but a few examples of what autism can look like. I forgot to mention this school had a vocational program all students age 16 and up took part in. They started assembling and disassembling nuts and bolts, stuffing envelopes, etc. At the time, my son was the youngest student they’d had work in the community successfully. He had many jobs that any teen would be likely to have (they all rotated jobs) and was hired to work privately by two companies. And he graduated with a diploma from that school and from his home district, he had enough credits in all subjects and we were all very proud. He had been labelled “ineducable” (unable to be taught) when he was three. Just shows how unpredictable this, like anything else, can be. Some go on to college. Have you heard of Temple Grandin? She is a woman, now in her forties at least, who has autism as well as a doctoral degree in animal husbandry, her own company, has written books and does public speaking. She admits, though, that she is more comfortable, one on one, with animals than with people. Those who have Asperger’s Syndrome are often among the highest functioning academically, but according to the Diagnostic Statistics Manual by which all conditions involving the brain are determined, Asperger’s is no longer an autism disorder, or at least so I’ve been told by those in a position to know. By the way, did you know that autism is a neurological disorder? It has manifestations that certainly fall in the category of mentality, but it is a genetic, neurological disorder in origin.
This is but a thumbprint description of what autism can look like. I’ve come across others in blogland who have young ones with autism, but I’ve seen none with adults. If there are any who read this, or if any reader knows someone in that category, please get in touch, we all need that community that is specific to our situations.
Opinions? Experiences? Parents, teachers, doctors, social workers, occupational or physical therapists, speech therapists, nurses? I’d love to hear from any and all of you. Whether you agree or disagree. My email address is at the top of this blog. Thanks to all.