Imagine watching a movie made by someone with autism, rather than about someone with autism. Wouldn't that be a refreshing change from the norm? Individuals with autism found themselves the subject of countless documentaries and feature films rather than the creators and the mavericks calling the shots.
He doesn't have a "special" talent. In fact, less than 10% of the autistic population have some kind of savant talent. When you ask about his "talent" and he knows that he doesn't have one, he feels less. He feels as though he is being judged for being "wrong" yet again. I hug him and tell him that you mean well, and that the drawing he did of Spider-Man really did rock! What I wish you would ask instead, is this.
The child with ASD must learn to identify a broad range of emotions and corresponding facial and body expressions, then encouraged to tune into their bodies and rate the intensity of their emotion using a "feelings thermometer." We feel what we feel. Although our emotions are always valid, our thoughts about a given situation are often skewed and in need of revision.
When my husband answered the phone you gently took over the job of restraining my son...something that no public servant has ever dared to do. We've had teachers and support workers tell us that they're not allowed to touch a child, even when it's a matter of keeping our son safe. But you held him firmly and respectfully, as gently as you could, without a trace of anger or fear on your face. "I have a lot of experience with autistic kids," you told me, and it showed.
What kind of mom drugs her kid? The mom who is tired of walking on eggshells, wondering who her child will hurt today. The mom who is tired of watching her baby suffer inside his own skin. The mom who, fighting back tears, dutifully takes the scrap of paper from the doctor with the round glasses.... What mom does that, anyway? The kind who will do whatever it takes to help her child feel better, even if it means doing precisely the thing she vowed never to do.
Many people have trouble getting a decent's night sleep, myself included. When I first heard about melatonin, it sounded too good to be true. A pill that would help me ease into the land of nod, and keep me there. And it was natural, to boot. What's the catch, I wondered? Well, seemingly none, it turns out.
The other thing about bullying is this: no matter which side you're on, it feels awful. When I saw that boy with the icepack, I felt sick. Sad and scared and frustrated. How could my child do this, when I work so tirelessly to teach him to be compassionate and caring? I felt responsible, and desperate.
Experts say you shouldn't praise children. I'm no psychologist, but I think they're wrong. Kids absolutely need to be praised. They deserve to be celebrated -- for the right reasons. I don't beat on to my son about how smart or handsome he is (though of course I'm biased on both counts). But when I know he has done something especially challenging, I don't skimp on the praise.
Autism has a bad rap with families and marriages. Pulling them apart. The stress, the constant worrying, the lack of time with your spouse and other children. The focus becomes your affected child and there is no time for you and forget about your partner. I thought my marriage was strong. It wasn't strong enough.
Inclusion is held up as the ideal learning environment, and rightly so. Successful integration is possible, yet it doesn't magically happen when you throw a child with high-functioning autism into a class of 20+ children, cross your fingers and hope for the best. In many cases, though, in schools across the country, this is exactly what is being passed off as inclusion.
The problem is that an ASD is a permanent neurological disorder; it doesn't go away, but rather confirms itself over time. As parents of children with special needs, we each have to find our path. Over time, we all find our way. For me this was, and continues to be, a lesson in acceptance and redefining my values.