Children And Adults With Autism Have Feelings Too

Children And Adults With Autism Have Feelings Too One thing I’ve learned over the past 18 years is that regardless of where your children are on the spectrum, they are first and foremost individuals with wants, needs and desires.They have a voice that must be heard, they have opinions that need to be expressed in whatever way they are able to do it.

They deserve to be loved; listened to and most of all respected. This respect starts at home with our own families. Their place on the spectrum, whether they are high, low or moderate-functioning or whether or not they are able to speak is irrelevant to the fact that they too deserve to be treated with the same dignity and respect we treat everyone we meet.

Respect for their opinions does not necessarily mean agreeing. It means you acknowledge your child/adult as an individual and their contribution as worthy and valuable. They don’t deserve to be mocked or laughed at because of how they think or how they perceive the world around them.

Sometimes the opinions and choices of children on the spectrum might seem uncommon but sometimes letting them make those choices on their own will help them towards becoming independent one day. Every individual deserves a safe environment where they can say “no” with complete freedom and not be afraid of ridicule. Often times, parents do all the talking on behalf of their children but take very little time to actually listen to what they have to say. Their thoughts matter, their opinions matter.

This is one of the things that get those on the spectrum very frustrated, particularly adults. Because they feel as though neuro-typicals want to talk/advocate on their behalf and at the same time they are not listening to what they have to say.

I can count very few instances in my life when people would actually approach my middle son and ask him a question instead of asking me about him. My middle son just smiles and stands there while looking at the person, hoping perhaps that they will communicate with him directly but they rarely do…How many children or adults who are on the lower end of the spectrum experience the same thing?

I understand that sometimes people do not know what to do or it is hard for people to relate, but please always approach the person on the spectrum and talk to them like you are talking to any of your friends. They don’t expect or deserve any less but your normal, everyday approach.

When communicating with high-functioning children on the spectrum or adults it is extremely important for neuro-typicals to allow them to express themselves without thinking we have the answer for everything (Because we don’t) or we have to interrupt or correct what they say (To conform). Respect for someone’s opinion as an individual is not only one of the best things we can give to others but in the case of our children, it also helps to boost their self-confidence and allows them to realise that they too have something worthwhile to contribute.

Adults with Autism have opinions they would love to share with others, sometimes they might also have strong views on certain topics just like the rest of us. And you know what? It is perfectly okay. Enough of the robotics where everyone needs to fit this invisible mold society tries so hard to impose in order to be accepted and validated.

When someone gives a chance to someone on the spectrum and they become friends, they are making a genuine friend for life. They never have to worry about having a fake friend who will either lie to them or stab them in the back. Friends on the spectrum will always be honest with you.

People spend years trying to get a child or adult on the spectrum to “change” the way they think like if there is some sort of anomaly that needs to be fixed (Like a car) in order to get them to think like the majority of people. When in fact, they were born to be extraordinary. Even though it is true that our children are living in a neuro-typical world, they do not have to change who they are in essence.

Children and adults with Autism have feelings too. Those feelings are manifested in many ways. Those on the higher-end of the spectrum do not always “have it good” just because they have the ability to speak and function with less assistance. They too worry, they too want to make friends and be accepted by their peers. They too want to be included in birthday parties, outings and celebrations. Many times, they are also victims of bullying or unethical people who take full advantage of the kindness of their heart and their need for friends…

Those on the lower end of the Autism spectrum are not statues or dolls that we feed, clothe, bathe and move around like if they are furniture. They need nurturing, friendship, love, and acceptance. They too want an opportunity to express their emotions. Someone who would just take the time to sit down with them, look at them in their eyes and speak to them. Someone who would take the time to see pass through the stimming, echolalia and sounds. Someone who would give them a chance at communication so they are not forced to create meaningful relationships with imaginary friends.

But don’t take it wrong. This isn’t a charity project where you feel sorry for the “autistic kid” or adult and you become one of those super heroes that comes to the rescue to make them feel better. No one wants to be anyone’s charity project. Just like us, they just want to be liked and accepted for who they ALREADY are.

Children with Autism should never have to reach a point in their lives where they have to doubt their self-worth. The world is already full of people who attempt to bring others down because they are simply not happy. But our homes can become places where our children can feel the comfort and peace in love and kindness.

A place where they know a caring parent will have their back no matter what happens, a place of protection from an often confusing world.

A place where the word “autistic” isn’t a replacement for their first name. A place where their voices are heard and respected.Their opinions valued and supported.

A place where they know they are loved and accepted just the way they are.

Even though I have many years of experience with Autism, I will never know what is truly like. But what I do know is this…as a parent; it is extremely hard to fix a broken heart. It is hard to witness the unkindness of those who simply don’t care how their words and behavior impact the most vulnerable, it is hard to witness your child trying and trying and never be considered “good enough” to become someone’s friend… And even harder, try to convince your child that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with him/her…

Be that somebody who makes everybody you meet feel like somebody. A kind gesture can reach a wound that only love and compassion can heal.

Autism Should Not Be A Profitable Theme

Autism Should Not Be A Profitable Theme

When you see an ad in the form of a social media post, newspaper clipping or other form of publication wherein they are asking for “Support” or for the public to “Give” or for “Donations” ask yourself who is really benefiting.

I would like people to take a more proactive approach about who they ‘support’ during Autism Awareness Month or in other words be more aware rather than just read “Awareness”. This is not the first time that I am seeing businesses promoting cups, items and products with the slogan of ‘Supporting Autism’ but they never publicly state how Autism families or individuals are exactly benefiting from the sales of these items. It is not the first year that I have seen people online asking for the public to “Join”, “Support” and in the end buy in and yet not detail how contributing to their brand, product or name helps families directly.

We all hope that contributing to these advertised ventures actually benefit those citizens on the spectrum by having their needs addressed instead of just making a one time event, ‘fun day’ or funding a private institution. The reality is we do not know where the money goes even though it should be clearly shown where thousands of dollars go each year using “Autism”. Here is an example, if someone says they need $1,000 to ‘help’ a child on the spectrum and yet pay themselves that $1,000 and request another $1,000 from the parents under the name “Helping”, is that truly addressing what that child needs or just making it more difficult for financially strained Autism families?

If businesses are going to profit from Autism during Autism Awareness month they have to specify who is going to benefit from their sales and/or donations. Is the money going to someone’s private pocket? Is an organisation benefiting and if so, who? Are Autism families benefiting privately and how exactly?

Autism is not a brand or a theme like Easter or Christmas and if businesses are going to profit from Autism Awareness Month, they should detail how exactly these funds are going to be utilize to help Autism families.

If a business raises for example $100,000 and they state it is benefiting 10 children with Autism… this means 10 children supposedly benefit from $10,000 each. Why not make it benefit 50 children or 100 children instead and reach out a greater number? How are these children selected and how much is given to each child? What about the rest of children?

A common answer is that they say part of their sales will go towards Autism families or organisations. What exact percentage of their sales will go towards them and who are these individuals? These questions are valid and vital for transparency.

I know a lot of you wish to support Autism families. Please ask the relevant questions, and specifically please do not support any venture that does not benefit Autism families directly or businesses who do not specifically answer these very important questions.

Autism Awareness Month should never be an opportunity to profit from the condition of hundreds of individuals using Autism as a theme. It is not a theme or a trendy event. If sales are going to be acquired under the umbrella of Autism Awareness, businesses should specify exactly who is going to benefit from such sales.

It is the right thing to do. Please everyone, be aware.

The Beautiful Aura Of Differently-Abled Children

The Beautiful Aura Of Differently-Abled ChildrenOne of the most amazing things about differently-abled children is that their aura, personality and genuine love is so powerful that you’re bound to be like me right now, thinking non-stop about their beautiful faces and the unforgettable conversations and moments I had with them yesterday.

When I met Justin* the first thing that drew me to him was his smile. We looked at each other and we bonded almost instantly. He is 14, has cerebral palsy and like any other teenager he loves to socialize and tease. We did a lot of that yesterday, I took him for a super-duper fast spin around the room with his wheelchair (He wanted to go faster but I told him he is too young to get a driver’s license!) You know teenagers these days…

There was something about the way he looks at you, like his eyes are directly speaking to you. Just by taking a little time to look at them, you can read and sense the excitement of a young man wanting to belong. A deep desire to be included in all activities and to be treated as an equal (And not like you’re talking to a baby, he is a young man!)

But what I sensed the most, was a deep need to be acknowledged as a perfectly capable individual who can express exactly what he wants and desires. If only people could slow down this ridiculously fast-paced world we live in and give others like my friend a chance so they can too feel they belong and create meaningful relationships with others.

By the end of four or five rounds around the room, I was completely out of breath but Justin didn’t want to stop. He could have go on like that forever. We stopped for a little bit and we limed together. We talked about his favorite foods, friends and activities. What a cool guy to hang out with, full of energy and a great sense of humour.

When it was time to do crafts, I saw all the energy he put into grabbing a crayon to start coloring. He was so patient with himself and kept that smile throughout the activity despite the difficulty of the task. I was extremely impressed and proud at how he chooses to face the challenges he was born with. He does it with resilience, determination and with a positive attitude.

I also met wonderful Sonya* a 14 year old girl who will be writing SEA this year. She never had the chance to go to a regular school even though she doesn’t have any intellectual challenges. But due to her physical related-issues, schools were not welcoming or accepting of her condition so she had to be home-schooled. She dreams of passing the SEA exam and go to a regular secondary school very soon. Like the rest of the children I met yesterday, Sonya was very welcoming and she hopes she can get to interact with children of her own age in the new school.

I also made a new friend with Down syndrome. It took a long time to figure out her name because when I asked, she was very shy about it, looked down and smiled non-stop. She has quite a few friends and is very good at coloring and making others happy. She is gentle, warm and at the same time quite mischievous. So don’t let that sweet smile fool you. Watch out! *laugh*

I made a lot of new friends yesterday and I cannot write about all of them because words aren’t enough to express how humbled, grateful and happy I felt when I spent time with them.

But nothing prepared me when I met Steve*. He is a super shy, sweet young man who is 15 years old. He has some intellectual challenges. He told me that he is an artist and proved it to me by painting this Easter egg that I will treasure forever. At the back, he even gave me his autograph like most artists would with their craft.

I sat down next to him and asked him what is it that he wants to do when he grows up. He thought for a few seconds, looked down and very shyly said:

“I want to be a driver…” and smiled.

I said: “That’s great I am sure you will be an amazing driver.”

He nodded in agreement, smiled and then became serious when he said:

“But what I want the most is to make my mom proud… ”

His answer left me speechless. It took me by surprise. I thought of my boys and how hard they try to do things that most people take for granted. Here I was, sitting next to such a pure-hearted young man who isn’t thinking about himself but his only wish is to make his mother happy and proud despite the serious challenges he faces and the hard work that it will take for him to achieve it.

I looked at him with a smile and said: “I am sure your mom is already proud of you, you’re an amazing guy”. He looked down, shyly smiled at me and continued coloring my Easter egg.

When was time to leave, I saw him across the room while he was getting ready to eat lunch. I shouted across the room: “Hey Steve, I am going. Take care!” while I waved goodbye.

It looked like he was taken by surprise when he realized that I remembered his name. How could I not remember it? He waved back goodbye with a smile.

I stepped back into this fast-pacing world; one that I wish could be more like the other. Slowly-paced… so we can get the chance to do what humans should do, caring for one another. Looking at each other’s eyes, being genuinely interested in their welfare.

A world where selfishness doesn’t have time or space. A world where people interact with others for what they are in the inside and not in the outside…

A world where people like my friends have EQUAL rights to public education and public health services…

A world where we teach our children to respect, love and accept everyone… and not just the people that look and act like them…

A world where we don’t whisper when we see someone who might be deemed as different… a world where we don’t laugh or mock them…

A world where we treat differently-abled individuals in the way they should be treated, with dignity. Not with sympathy, not as a charity project…

A world where people like my friend Steve can actually get the opportunity to have a job and make his mama proud…

*Not their real names.

Autism: Kings In The Spotlight

Autism: Kings In The Spotlight A couple of Saturdays ago, I was with the boys in one of the local malls. They were having a fashion show so we stood around for a little while and enjoyed the performance.

After it was over, a young man with a basketball was called to do a trick with the ball. It wasn’t anything complicated, just a simple ball trick.

As we were watching, the man in the microphone said in front of hundreds of people watching the show: “We would like to invite those two boys in black jerseys to come here”.

My first impression was to say to myself: “Nah, they didn’t say two boys in black jerseys!” But then I realised that all eyes turned to His Royal Highness #2 and His Royal Highness #3. Since we didn’t move after the initial shock, someone came to get us giving me no time at all to “train” the Kings in what was about to happen or what we will happen. Most of all, I didn’t know how they will react if they didn’t get the trick done in the correct manner.

Will they have a meltdown if for some reason they don’t get it right? Will they be afraid of standing in front of a lot of people and do this? Will the people be kind and supportive of two clumsy boys even if they don’t know they are on the Autism spectrum?

Like two celebrity kids used to the flash of paparazzi cameras, King #2 and King #3 loved every second in the spotlight. His Royal Highness #3 was smiling the whole time and even though he struggled to do the trick with precision, he compensated all with a lot of determination and eagerness.

The crowd was kind and cheered for him loudly and clapped. His Royal Highness #2 tried his best as well and even though he too lacked precision, the face he put when people started cheering for him was priceless. He had the face of “I am doing an incredible job and people are seeing that!”. It gave him the courage to try a second and a third time. Both of them received complementary t-shirts for trying to do the trick and they were very happy.

They left with a feeling of accomplishment as any child should feel when they attempt something for the first time. I was humbled and grateful that the crowd was supportive and kind towards them…and they didn’t laugh or mocked them. I was very grateful…It isn’t always the case.

This little experience made me ponder a lot in our roles as members of society. Tiny, genuine acts of kindness towards others can impact their days in ways we might not even realise. They are many among us who might be seen as awkward or different, those who might be friendless or perhaps very lonely.

How much each one of us can impact their lives by simply taking a genuine interest in them, smile and cheering them a little bit. It doesn’t take much if there is love in our hearts…

And if we cannot do any of these things for whatever reason, at least don’t mock them, don’t ridicule them, and don’t make them feel less…

In a world where you can be anything, choose to be kind.

What Do You Tell An Autism Parent That Cries Each Day?

What Do You Tell An Autism Parent That Cries Each Day? I just finished talking on the phone with a mother of an adult son on the Autism spectrum and I had to come here to blog about it. I need to express my thoughts…my sadness, frustration and my hurt for the pain this mother and son are going through. The saddest thing is that I know they are not the only ones…

What do you tell a desperate mother who is seeking public help for their adult son on the spectrum (In URGENT need of behavioral intervention)?. That there is nothing in place in the public sector because past and present government officials do NOT care AT ALL about the special needs community in this country? That their pay only lip service when Autism Awareness month comes around like if our children are puppets or accessories to be used whenever they feel to? That they love to pose for useless pictures and give special speeches about Autism like if TALKING about it SOLVES the real issues?

I am sick of the talks, of the pictures, the ribbons and the balloons. I am tired to know that unless parents have loads of money to spend, there are no places for them to go to receive the kind of help they need. I feel disgusted at the uncaring, neglectful, insensitive NON-ACTION approach from those in power.

I am fed-up of hearing the solution lies on funding a few places to cater for the needs of the ENTIRE NATION instead of putting a NATIONAL AND PUBLIC system in place to cater for ALL and NOT ONLY for a few fortunate ones. I am appalled to know that there is not even the slightest interest to hear about a plan that could help alleviate the problem.

Children on the Autism spectrum have been forgotten for many years but adults on the spectrum have been forgotten completely. And some are walking in a very dangerous path… a path that might even lead them to be locked up…

This adult on the spectrum I am talking about might be in police custody very soon. He might even go to jail for doing something he is unable to control. His mind is like a young child but trapped in the body of a full-grown man, while still playing with his toy car…but the system does not care because they do not understand Autism.

What do you tell a desperate mother who went through the public system and they only have her going around in circles? What do you say to a mother whose child has become very aggressive due to medication he is receiving (After an incident that got him in trouble with the law)? What do you tell a mother who tells you she comes back home and all she does is cry and that she doesn’t know what else to do?

My heart is very heavy. I feel for this mother. I feel for her son. And I wish I could guide her to public resources available in Trinidad, places she can go to.…people she could visit…but I think she knows there is nothing in place if you have no money to spend…

All she could do was talk with me on the phone…and connect with me, heart to heart. Vent her sadness and frustration at a system that is constantly failing her and her son. A system that is so ridiculously merciless that is beyond human.

How can those with the ability to create policy and make the kind of changes this mother needs, can sleep so comfortably at night? Knowing that they keep failing and failing the same very people they are paid to SERVE?

I know the system is broken, but the system is not made of machines. It is made of people. If there is no empathy and care, how could any system be fixed?

“Can I call you back again Ms. Borde… just to talk? Sometimes I need to talk to someone…” she said as she was ending the conversation…

“Of course you can”, I answered.

That’s the least I could do, I thought to myself. Just listen… and hope for a miracle.

This King With Autism Eats Everything… Almost

This King With Autism Eats Everything... AlmostChristmas was in the air!…umm wait, did Christmas pass already? I don’t even know what date is today to be honest because for the past few days I am nursing a house full of sick kings and very little hair on top of my head.

As a Vegan and health enthusiast, I hardly get sick. Maybe once every few years I might get some odd cold coming from nowhere but 99% of the time I am very healthy. No kidding, do you have another choice when you have three kings to look after?

Now, the thing is..having 3 kings on the spectrum and one in particular with sensory related issues makes things quite difficult with regards to eating healthy or have a variety of foods that he will actually eat. Hm, let me think: Peanut butter, cereal, pasta, toast, crix, roti skin and Chinese noodles. I think that’s about it. Which means that the youngest gets ill very often (VERY often) and when one gets ill..the rest gets ill as well.

I am a firm believer in reducing common illnesses almost completely by a combination of drinking lots of water and eating as natural as possible. King #1 and 2 have no issues with the food I prepare (I only cook healthy Vegan meals) and they love it. But King #3…boy, it is a serious struggle. He will be 10 years old in April so I am hoping that things can get better SOON.

One thing I discovered is that sometimes insisting and insisting (A.k.a nagging!) does work for some children on the spectrum. For example: Today King #3 wanted cereal and he got cereal…along with a whole apple cut up in slices. So of course, he ate the cereal but was looking at the apple like if I just handed him poison.

After eating his cereal he said he was “full” which it would be impossible because I put very little cereal (This kiddo thinks I don’t know his tricks). Anyways, I said well just sit down and wait until you feel to eat again to which he answered very upset: “What? And be here until…forever and ever?” (Who said there is such a thing as drama queens only?…)

Making a long story short, he ate the entire apple. He took his time and finished it. Of course, I congratulated him for doing such an exceptional job after all, Santa left a letter for him telling him specifically to eat his veggies and fruits so he doesn’t get sick.

Now during lunch, he wanted to eat some toast with peanut butter. I said fine but I added a mini-salad of lettuce and cucumbers on the side. Again, he looked at the salad in the same way he looked at the apples. He ate the toasts, and then said it will take him forever to finish it. I said it is okay, there is no rush. He then ate the few slices of cucumbers and said he will not eat the lettuce. I replied by saying that he will finish the lettuce just like he finished the apples *wink* So watching a show, he finished the mini-salad too.

Maybe this is a small victory for some parents, but for this sleepless mother of 3 it is a huge victory. And tomorrow we start all over again.

But what am I complaining about? In about three days, will be war zone (Fireworks) and I am not even sure how my kings will handle it this year. I hate those scratch bombs! The few hairs on top of my head might as well drop out completely.

But don’t mind me. Let the world be on hold for a few seconds today, ladies and gentlemen. King #3 ate veggies and fruits today! It should be on TV6 news!

Christmas Shopping In Trinidad: Autism Style!

Christmas Shopping In Trinidad: Autism Style! It is that time of the year once again…I know! And everything that comes along with it. Big crowds everywhere, long lines at the grocery store and mall, noise, music, and every possible scenario that can trigger an Autism meltdown at any moment. It is already too much stimuli for all of us neuro-typicals, let alone our neuro-diverse children!

So I decided to write this blog post that can help us deal with it in the best way possible:

SHOP EARLY

I know it is easier said than done. Trust me; I’ve been there with my 3 boys in- tow! But doing your shopping early can help reduce significantly a lot of stressful situations.

As Autism parents, we should try our earnest to avoid scenarios that might cause great distress to our children and ourselves. This includes, trying your best to avoid a Speedy-Gonzalez shopping trip to the mall in a late Friday evening. You might think it will not take “too long” but after a long day, those few minutes can turn into hours in the eyes of an individual on the Autism spectrum.

Shopping early will help your child to be exposed to shopping with you (And be taught how it works!) in a more relaxed and friendly environment. Shopping early means also that there will be fewer crowds, he/she will not be bouncing into anyone; there will be less noise and therefore fewer chances for sensory-related meltdowns.

Everyone wins!

LOOK OUT FOR THE SIGNS

Individuals on the Autism spectrum might feel overstimulated quickly. In a lot of cases, they have sensory-related issues (Making them extremely sensitive to noise, lights, etc). They might not be able to express these challenges with words but there are signs that might indicate to us that a meltdown is about to happen:

1. Trigger: There is usually a particular reason that might lead to a meltdown. Know your child’s triggers and try to avoid those situations.

2. Anxiety: Your child might appear nervous, anxious and he/she might be pacing around the store or become very still.

3. Reassurance: If your son/daughter is verbal he might be seeking constant reassurance by asking you the same questions over and over.

4. Rocking/covering ears: Your child might be rocking back and forth in order to stabilize himself/herself emotionally due to stress. He/she might also be rocking while covering his/her ears.

If you are unable to leave the particular place during a meltdown, one of the first things you need to ensure is safety. Remove your child from any place that could cause him/her to harm him or others.

Once he/she is safe, try to use distraction as a strategy tool to get your child’s attention away from what he/she is experiencing. Keep in mind that once a meltdown takes place and reaches a certain point, your child might not be able to “listen” to what you have to say.

Remaining very calm amidst the storm is key to soothe a child who is already in overload-mode.

WRITE A SOCIAL STORY

Social stories can be a great tool in preparation for shopping with your child with Autism. Short stories are basically detailed descriptions of an activity that is about to take place. They help individuals with Autism to know what to expect in that particular situation and why. It brings peace and order to their minds and helps to control anxiety.

So if you need to go to a shop tomorrow to purchase a pair of earrings, create a comic-strip booklet (Or single sheets) the day before about what the day will be like (In detail) so your child knows what to expect. In the drawing, it will be you and your child going to the store. You might draw yourself picking up that pair of earrings and paying for it at the cashier. Social stories work for ALL individuals on the spectrum but particularly non-verbal individuals. You don’t have to be Da Vinci to have a perfect drawing; the most important aspect is that all the elements can be there.

AVOID RANDOM SHOPPING

Because our neuro-diverse children need to know in advance what they will experience, try to avoid random shopping. If your child knows you are going to the supermarket and you even created a social story about it and he/she has been doing great so far, avoid the temptation of stopping by for just “five” minutes to get that last present you forgot to shop for. Five minutes might be five hours for a child who was not expecting that last minute trip.

USE SHOPPING AS A TEACHING OPPORTUNITY

I know the temptation is great (To do everything ourselves) but remembering we are raising children with the hope they will become independent one day.

As much as it is possible and practicable, involve your child in your shopping trip. If you are shopping for groceries, ask them to put the groceries in the trolley for you. Ask them to pick up their favorite fruit or veggie in order to test their comprehension skills and preferences.

Most cashiers are very understanding if you explain that your child is on the spectrum and he/she might want to pay for a few groceries by himself/herself. Give your child the opportunity to shine. Waiting in line can be a stressful and frustrating but if your child has his/her own items to cash; it will help them to develop patience.

MAKE SURE YOUR CHILD IS WELL RESTED

This is a very important factor. If you know your child has to do shopping with you tomorrow, make sure he/she goes to bed early so they can have a good rest and be in a good mood the next day. Lack of sleep can cause a lot of grumpiness and unnecessary stress.

Also, ensure he/she eats well and drink before the trip. The same applies to you! A parent who takes care of themselves is a parent that can better help their child.

HAVE RELAXING ITEMS HANDY

Always have relaxing items that can help soothe your child if he/she is overwhelmed during shopping. It might be a doll, a blanket or any other item that your child might be attached to. Perhaps it is something small that he/she can carry inside a pocket.

Whatever it is, try your best to have it around so if your son/daughter might be feeling impatient, anxious or overwhelmed they can use this object as a diversion until you are able to figure out the trigger and help them to calm down.

Hope these tips can help you make Christmas shopping a less stressful activity with your son/daughter! Please let me know in your comments below how are you preparing for the holiday.

My Helper: How Chores Can Be Done By A Child With Autism

My Helper: How Chores Can Be Done By A Child With Autism

Children (Generally speaking) love to “help”. But when the sweet boy in question is your moderate-verbal 11 year old with Autism, you feel to throw a humongous party of exaggerate proportions just because you know exactly what it means: LIFE SKILLS! And we all know how important life skills are for children on the Autism spectrum.

You see, in order to understand how this mom feels you need to have met him some years ago. This is why I always say that in Autism, changes occur all the time. They can really surprise you. If you ever watched Pokemon, you will see that the characters evolve and when they do, they possess greater skills than ever before. I feel my boys are a little like Pokemons.

King #2 has become “My Helper” at home. He does chores without being asked to or prompted to. He loves the feeling of accomplishment that comes along with it. Plus who doesn’t love some extra-words of praise from your parents when you are doing such a terrific job? It is a big deal for all of us, but him particularly because these are chores he has seen me do for years.

It makes him feel proud and accomplished. The same feeling he gets when he stands next to you, compares his height with your short self and smiles when he is realizing that he will reach you in just a short period of time. Or when he buys his own snack at the grocery store and pays with his own money.

The greatest part of all, it is his attitude towards these chores. He does it with glee and a big smile on his face. Of course, he also wants to show you how amazing he is at them so every time he does a chore, he calls you to show you what an excellent helper he is. Let me type a list of some of the things he does:

1. Set table for lunch/dinner correctly.

2. Clear up the table after eating.

3. Make his own bed.

4. Make his younger brother’s bed.

5. Fold laundry.

6. Clean table after eating.

7. Prepare night clothes.

8. If there is no helper in the supermarket, he bags our groceries.

9. Carry some grocery bags to our vehicle.

10. He puts away the trolley.

He is now looking forward to learn how to wash dishes. It is a big deal for him. After all, like he says: “I am tall, I am 11 years old”. That’s right, you are and we are all very proud of your accomplishments.

I am sure you are wondering, how did you go about teaching all of this to a child who has processing related challenges and has limited verbal skills? The following are just some of the things I learned:

DO NOT ASSUME NOR LIMIT YOUR CHILD

I think as individuals, we tend to assume a lot about others including our own children. Just because a child on the spectrum cannot talk, does not mean they do not understand. Just because they might not say much, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to say. Just because they do not do things as neuro-typical children do, does not mean they cannot do it. They CAN. In their own way and time but they CAN.

So I will say first, we need to change our mindset with regards to our children. We need to BELIEVE they can accomplish these things because at the end of the day, if their own parents don’t believe in them…Who else will?

Do not limit your child thinking he cannot do X or Y just because you tried once or twice. No one accomplishes a task after trying a few times. Sometimes it takes lots of practice and practice makes perfect.

It is very easy to give up quickly and end up doing the chores we want to be done in a “certain” way. But the picture is bigger than we think. This isn’t about us wanting things to be done in a particular way; this is about our children learning how to survive in the world. So what if the table has not been perfectly clean, it is PERFECT because your child did it and tried his/her best.

EXPOSURE IS KEY

Sometimes, exposure is hard for Autism parents because they might be afraid of possible meltdowns. And we are all so tired that we try to avoid those situations at all costs. But exposure is how our children learn best. By observing others when you think they are not, by having one on one experience in places that they will need to go when they are independent.

King #2 used to have some serious meltdowns at the supermarket. So stressful that more than once we had to leave our groceries right on the spot and go home. If King #3 was with us, even worse. They would get into serious fights and meltdowns would erupt.

But the solution did not lie on “let’s stop going to the grocery”. No, we would take him right back every time until he was able to cope with it. Now, we can all go to the supermarket without major issues. It did not happen overnight, but exposure has been key.

GIVE OPPORTUNITIES TO GROW

If we want our children to accomplish these things and more, we need to give them tasks and opportunities to grow. It is very important that these tasks/chores/opportunities are given according to capacity/ emotional maturity rather than age.

We need to give them chores they can handle easily, things that will encourage them to want to be more involved. One chore at the time and as they get more confident, we need to add more.Things that can make them feel proud and by doing so, improve their self-esteem.

PRAISE IS VITAL

Praising your child for trying his/her best is a vital aspect of success and a way to show you love them. It helps them know they have done a wonderful job and you appreciate them. In turn, they will want to do more which is what we want to accomplish as Autism parents. It is also important, because you are raising a child that one day you hope will become fully independent. Confidence is key to live a fulfilling and productive life.

I hope these tips can help you. Please let me know how your own helper is doing and what he/she is accomplishing over time, I would love to know! Don’t worry; it is not a race, so take it easy. Remember, every little accomplishment counts!

Autism: Boyhood To Manhood

Autism: Boyhood To Manhood Autism parents secretly (And sometimes not so secretly) hope that things “get better as they get older”. You know, who doesn’t want to enjoy those little luxuries we dream about on a daily basis? Imagine…the ability to shower for longer than 5 minutes (And guess what? Get to use hair conditioner for a change!). We can talk about brushing it in another blog post…

Well folks, I am approaching an era that goes beyond all of that…an era that is like diving in deep waters and even though so far you think you have been a pretty good darn swimmer, nothing prepares you for this next stage. Nothing. We are playing in the big boy’s league now and I have NO idea how it will turn out.

King#1 will be legally an adult in a matter of months from now…No, it is not a typo and I think I should type that again because I NEED to read it over. King #1 will be legally an ADULT in a matter of months from now. *gulp*

Teenage years are the toughest years so far, especially for high-functioning children on the spectrum. You have the mix of Autism plus hormones, plus teenage behavior. ALL at once, Lord have mercy.

I am just here trying to digest what I just typed, comprehend and brain-storm the long list of questions and ifs that have been floating on my mind for a while now.

In addition to that (Which is a LOT don’t you think?), King #2…one of my babies… who is the one that struggles the most with communication and the one that displays the most autistic characteristics is showing clear physical signs of pre-puberty. YES. PRE-PUBERTY. I have an adult in the making and one kid that is about to hit PUBERTY. Can someone PLEASE hit me with a hammer to see if all of this is just a dream!?

Am I supposed to be excited? I am so speechless that I really don’t know how to even start answering that question. I am totally bewildered.

I am starting to see how much it really “hits” you (Like a rushing wave) to see the physical changes associated with puberty happening to your moderate/severe child on the Autism spectrum. I don’t think anything can prepare you for that. It is very surreal to say the least.

I cannot put into words what is like but it is happening. It is happening right in front of your eyes and his.. But the only person who seems aware of it is you. There are no questions on his part; there are no concerns because he simply cannot express with full sentences what is really taking place.

Everything (In his mind) seems to be the same… Peppa Pig and We Bare Bears. You come to terms with the fact that time doesn’t forgive and nature takes its course regardless of what is happening inside your child’s beautiful brain…

It is a bittersweet experience to witness…often times more sad than anything else but depending a lot on the day and how you feel. It is also very humbling because there isn’t anything you can do to stop it, even if you would want to “postpone” it until your child is ready to manage those changes. You simply cannot but you are a parent, you are supposed to be all powerful.

My kings are moving towards a place I am not even sure about but again, that’s how the journey has been so far for all of us Autism parents. We walk little by little not knowing exactly what will happen next. Like them, I am a little scared. But you know what? We all went through so much that I am okay if I am. I make no apologies for it or feel bad about it.

Autism times 3 can be extremely overwhelming, but also rewarding. Seeing your children overcome so many challenges throughout the years gives you the energy and courage to continue working hard and never give up. Of course, you will always have your “moments” don’t ever feel guilty about it. Feel them; process them so you can then find the strength to move on.

Even when you feel to give up, some little arms around your neck will remind you that you cannot. You know there is a bigger mission to be accomplished and the job shouldn’t ever come as a burden or a tick in a to-do list.

Take a deep breath, compose yourself, look at yourself in the mirror and find that inner voice that says: You are enough. Because indeed, YOU ARE. When you realize that you are MORE than enough, you will then find the courage to continue this journey. You will discover that the ability to continue moving despite all your fears is not a sign of weakness or inadequacy, but quite the contrary it is a sign of true strength.

Autism: Jester vs King

Autism: Jester vs King I have been living in Autism City for many years (And moving out isn’t an option wink.gif) You can say I am half-human and sort of half-octopus…trying to cater for the needs of three completely different kings with a completely different set of rules and demands. You know kings aren’t easy to please. You get something wrong and blast…hell goes loose. Oh come on…you know you want to say it: “What the… How do you it?”

Well, welcome to Autism City where your reward for doing a good job at the end of the day is….*drum rolls* A trip to the……BATHROOM! Congratulations Autism Parent! Yes, you and ONLY YOU can now enjoy the most relaxing experience in your own toilet! Without little hands crawling under the bathroom door! The added bonus is a trip to the…..SHOWER for longer than 5 minutes! Don’t miss this amazing opportunity!

Joke aside, let me tell you a bit about what has been going on with King #2. So even though Autism and I met a long time ago…I feel someone should have warned me strongly about echolalia and repetitive behavior. My goodness, I swear it leaves your brain fried at the end of the day. For those who aren’t very familiar with the term, echolalia is defined as “the repetition of phrases, words or parts of words”, a common occurrence among some individuals on the spectrum.

Well, King #2 has it but…not quite like you think. What he has been doing for months is repeat the same questions over and over hundreds of times a day until yes…you feel like your brain has become (Literally) strawberry jelly.

During all these questions (And answers) he has a huge smile on his face for the entire time. Yup, he loves it. He loves asking the same questions over and over again because he knows the answers are going to be the same. But wait; don’t think he does it only for that purpose. Nope, the kiddo knows exactly what he is doing.

He enjoys seeing you getting frustrated during the entire process (who wouldn’t? Unless you have the patience of Mother Theresa) so when you say: “But I just answered that question!” his reaction comes in the form of a very loud laugh…and I mean a super laugh straight AT you, for walking directly into his trap. In other words ladies and gentlemen, King #2 loves teasing a.k.a. Trolling. He is very good at it and he admits he loves it.

Even though it is frustrating at times, seeing him teasing in that way (A form of playing to him) makes you realize that just because someone is on the spectrum and they are not very verbal, it doesn’t mean they don’t understand what is going on around them or don’t know how to make jokes, etc. They have their own way to do it. Through teasing, King #2 wants to communicate with others. He doesn’t know how to reach out in many other ways yet but through playing in this manner, it gives him a sense of belonging…like he is part of something and no one has issues understanding him. It is his way to “Converse”.

Did I mention he beat King #3 and me today at playing Uno? I am telling you…the kid is a genius…all this “I can’t talk, I can’t talk” and then BAM he has you on his feet at awe, worshiping him like the true king he is.

How are your kings and queens doing? Please leave a comment below and let me know!