Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Autism Awareness / Giveaway II



Part II of the Autism Awareness Giveaway Blog Series

GIVEAWAY - details about the giveaway is at the end of this blog post.

One of the first things that people ask me about autism, when they find out that my son is on the autism spectrum, is how I knew.

Wait, let me back up for a minute...

Let me first say that most people do not want to discuss autism at all. It's the big elephant in the room that people just tip-toe around when they find out that my son has PDD-NOS. I see eyes glaze over or their attention being drawn elsewhere. They laugh nervously and say something like how cute my kids are or how tall Samuel is. This is annoying. I want to talk about his abilities and challenges. I won't break down and cry if you ask why he still can't talk very plainly or why he doesn't seem to obey very well, sometimes. It's OK to ask me questions or comment, or even joke about, my son. He's an awesome person like most kids and it's nice when people actually want to get into a discussion about autism. I'm sure I speak for many parents of autistic children in saying all of this. And so, moving on....WHEN people get into an autism discussion, they always want to know how I knew my son was different.

Tough question. With no concrete answer. I didn't know; it took time to find out, with his pediatrician, preschool teachers, speech pathologist, and child psychologist pointing me to the answer.

One of the things I've discovered about autism, is that no two autistic people are the same. This is tough for people to understand, sometimes. I think people want to look at those with differences or challenges, and see them all the same so it's easy to identify them. Like people born with Down's Syndrome, for example. I personally think it's fascinating that no matter what race a person is, if they are born with Down's, they all share similar features and look related. It's like God created another race of special people to live among us and teach us things. But it's not so easy with autism.

One of the ways I try to explain is this; imagine that there are 100 traits that autistic kids have, and Samuel has about 13 of those traits. But if you meet 20 more people with autism this week, you'll meet 20 people entirely different than Samuel, because they may have any number and combination of those 100 autistic traits.

Some traits are more common than others, and here are a few that Samuel has demonstrated:
* a speech delay (this was apparent at age one and still requires speech therapy)
* extreme food pickiness, such as avoiding certain foods or combinations of food
* it took him awhile to develop a sense of danger
* it is a challenge for him to understand consequences of actions
* he can get sensorily overstimulated and have a melt-down
* he can't relate socially with his peers and mostly plays along side of them instead of 'with' them
*he is just now beginning to play imaginatively with his toys but still has a tendency to just line them up in order
* he can memorize a movie and loves to act it out all over the house, reciting the lines while he plays. This can continue for hours/days/weeks unless we intervene.

There are other things, but these are some main ones. And when I've mentioned these to some people they've laughed and said; "oh well, he's a typical boy who wants to behave badly in public". HA! I wish! You have to take all of his issues into consideration.

There are very positive things about him though, that I want to point out just to even out this list...
* he hit many milestones very early, such as walking and being agile / athletic. At 10 months old he could slide backwards & upside down on the playground slide. At one year he was climbing to our ceiling and finding a way to bounce / flip down to land safely on the ground!
* he potty trained easily and early
* he learned his alphabet early
* with him, things are pretty black & white. Like most kids on the spectrum, he is honest and doesn't think in a manipulative manner. What you see is what you get with him.
* he has an amazing memory

But enough about Samuel...I want to you to hear about autism through another person's voice. I met Nikki through a mutual friend who wanted to connect me with someone else who had a child with autism. I am so glad, because Nikki is awesome! Here is her story:

I was first introduced to the world of autism when I reconnected with a high school friend who has a son with low-functioning Autism. I knew little about it at the time, but my eyes would soon be opened to the whole spectrum. It would soon become a part of our daily lives.

My son Connor was diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the young age of 4. It started with a speech delay that soon took us far beyond the ability of a speech pathologist. When the speech pathologist suggested that he might be on the spectrum I felt as though the wind had been knocked out of me. We were referred to the UC Davis M.I.N.D. institute. After a full day of testing we were given the blow. Connor was what they considered “High-Functioning” Autistic. My husband and I were crushed. I went home and got a hold of every piece of information I could. It was all about education at this point. I just had to understand what we were dealing with. I went through the full gamut of emotions, but had to set them aside and focus on Connor. He was soon placed in a SP-ED preschool class. He did well and was able to transition into General-Ed Kindergarten. Every year presented itself with new challenges and every year we fought to keep him in the least restrictive environment.

Just as we were feeling confident about the whole situation we were delivered another blow. My daughter, Chloe, who was 9 at the time, was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome. A.S. is on the higher-functioning end of the Spectrum. She had been dx w/ ADD at an early age so I just thought her little idiosyncrasies were because of that. She was receiving some Sp-Ed services from the school district because of the ADD. It was the school speech pathologist who suggested that we have Chloe tested for ASD. I was so angry! I couldn’t see it since she did not exhibit ANY of the same characteristics that Connor had. Talk about denial! Here was my gifted, beautiful daughter…she could NOT possibly have Autism! She was outgoing, friendly and talkative. I started to reflect…I had watched her closely during all the years of school. Chloe never really connected w/ her peers. She would gravitate toward adults or much younger children. I just figured it was her preference. I later learned that this was because there was less pressure to perform. Younger children didn’t mind that she said things that were off topic etc., and adults were forgiving and/or would correct her. Again, we set out to understand everything we could about her diagnosis.

Chloe is now almost 12 and Connor is 10. They are both attending a private Christian school and doing very well. They have been able to stay in a general education setting since kindergarten. They are extremely musical, singing at benefit concerts and in full length musicals. Don’t get me wrong…there are days when I want to pull my hair out. Homework takes us hours every night. We have visual schedules posted all over our house. We have to explain every idiom/metaphor we use, every sarcastic statement and all movies have to be played w/ the subtitles on. I wouldn’t change one thing about my children! They are my life, my joy! Most importantly, they are beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God. =)

In my opinion, Autism is not a disability, but a dif-ability. They think, respond, and see the world from a different perspective. It’s not wrong; it’s just different. I often refer to my children as foreign exchange students. They are constantly learning how to understand the customs and language that surround them daily. All Autistic children are extremely gifted. Some of the greatest inventors and artists were thought to have had Autism; Albert Einstein, Andy Warhol and Isaac Newton to name a few. People with Autism could teach us a lot about perspective and character. One of my favorite quotes is as follows…”People with Autism don’t lie, they don’t cheat and they don’t play mind games.” So basically what you see is what you get! =)

Nikki Morris

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Connor & Chloe


GIVEAWAY
The giveaway is open to anyone and basically, the more entries you have the better your chances of winning a prize! You can view the prizes in the prize vault here.

How to get entries:
1) Register here. You only have to do this ONCE so if you already have, skip to #2.

2) After reading this blog post, comment below. You can say anything about this blog post, how you felt reading it, something it made you think of, something you learned, etc. Comment once specifically about this post and be sure to leave your name!!

3) Post a link to this blog post on your FB and comment back here that you did.

4) Tweet this and comment back here that you did.

5) Mention this on your own blog and comment back here, with a link to your blog post.

6) If you didn't read the first Autism Awareness blog, you can do so here and follow the instructions at the end for even more entry opportunities!

Be sure and watch for the next Autism Awareness / Giveaway blog and more chances to win! Thank you for your interest in spreading education about autism.

22 comments:

  1. I love the quote : ”People with Autism don’t lie, they don’t cheat and they don’t play mind games.” Very powerful!

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  2. I like your whole outlook! Your kids are lucky to have you as their Mama. I enjoyed the line about them being foreign exchange students.

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  3. I'm a therapist and one of my all-time favorite clients was a teen with the diagnosis of PDD-NOS. His family always believed in and encouraged him to embrace his differences and pursue his dreams. He is studying psychology in a local community college right now. He left a mark on my heart that will always remind me to look at kids in light of their possibilities and dreams, not their difficulties! Great post.

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  4. I learned from this post that there are varying degrees of autism.

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  5. Wow, Becky! That is awesome!! Thanks so much for sharing. I am encouraged. =)
    Nikki

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  6. What a great informative post...Thank you!

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  7. ps...shared this on facebook too!:)

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  8. I love how you highlight the "giftedness" of autistic children. Different is not necessarily wrong or weird! I wish the whole world would embrace that concept wholeheartedly.
    sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

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  9. Shared on FB: http://tinyurl.com/4cywh55
    sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

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  10. Tweeted:
    http://twitter.com/sazzyfrazzy/status/47862226895388672
    sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

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  11. Blogged:
    http://sazzyfrazz.blogspot.com/2011/03/autism-awareness-from-heart-of-soshawna.html
    sazzyfrazz at gmail dot com

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  12. Knowledge is power!!
    leitha03@yahoo.com

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  13. I like that you pointed out the positives- the things that your son has done/does even better than children without autism. Your positive outlook is wonderful and such an inspiration!
    nbalogh522 at gmail dot com

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  14. tweeted:
    http://twitter.com/#!/maybaby522/status/50347989104988161
    nbalogh522 at gmail dot com

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  15. I actually had no idea that Samuel did not play imaginatively. I did know that he lined up his toys a lot. It's really interesting to see just how different and broad this really is.

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  16. Also shared this one on FB. -Kenda

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  17. wow encourging dtristan07@aol.com

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  18. fb wall diandra hinson vega dtristan07@aol.com

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  19. Connor & Chloe are too cute! Thank you for sharing multiple perspectives. My adopted sister, Brenda, has a daughter with Asperger Syndrome. She is bright and lovely. Reading Nikki's story I could see some similarities between all of these children.

    SoShawna, you are doing great things. I pray you continue to be inspired and that GOD continues to strengthen you. I enjoy hearing all of your stories and experiences. Samuel is a gift - no diffabilities change that! :)

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  20. tweet tweet - this is fun! I'm ready for another post. :) Thank you for sharing!

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