Part II of the Autism Awareness Giveaway Blog Series
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! =)