David Mitchell: What My Son’s Autism Has Taught Me
Hurry! came the advice following diagnosis. Save your child from autism before its too late! But how do you save your child from something when you dont know what that something is?
The road to understanding autism is unfinished, zigzagging and punctuated by speed bumps, the first of which is the question that transformed my life as a dad in 2008: What is autism, anyway? My son was three years old when he was diagnosed, but autism resists definition, vigorously. Google Downs syndrome or Parkinsons disease, and youll get a broadly agreed-upon set of causes and criteria. Google autism, and you get a can of worms, a minefield, academic papers and a shouting match. Despite the prevalence of phrases like autism epidemic and suggested cures, autism is not a disease , but a syndrome a cluster of symptoms, or the disorder associated with them. These symptoms cover a lot of tangled ground: impaired communicative and social skills; scrambled sensory processing; delayed childhood development; poor motor functions; an aversion to eye contact; tendencies towards repetitive behaviours, spinning and rocking motions. Some of these were visible in my son; just as many were not.
Don’t assume that behind autism’s speechlessness lies nothing, or nothing to speak of. Talk to the person
How do you save your child from something when you dont know what that something is? Or when nobody even knows what causes it?
What Ive Learned From Working With Autistic Children
As an occupational therapist, I work with children with autism and various other disabilities to help them become more independentwith day-to-day activities like eating, dressing and grooming. As a previous schoolteacher and practicing OT, I will always be a lifelong learner, striving to better meet the needs of the children I work with. In honor of World Autism Awareness Day and Autism Awareness Month, I want to share what I have learned from working with children with autistic spectrum disorder and how autism teaches us the importance of acceptance, patience and reflection. ;
Moms Of Kids On The Spectrum Are Judged More Harshly Than Moms Of Neurotypical Children
Its a mom-eat-mom world out there, and mom shaming is abundant for everyone, but children on the spectrum sure garner a lot of attention! All autism moms have experienced it: Were in public and our child has had enough. Whether were at a siblings soccer practice or the checkout line at a store, the child melts down and everyone around has an opinion about it. Ive been told my child is too spoiled, needs more discipline, needs less discipline… All the judgment is enough to make you want to scream! What I have learned from this is that I will never be able to appease everyoneand it isnt my job to do so! My responsibility is to my son, and he taught me to overlook the well-meaning advice of total strangers in favor of what is best for him. Now Ive learned to politely explain that my child has special needs and I, as his mother, am capable of addressing his needs.
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Make Your Expectations Clear
Sometimes we understand things differently. What is a complete mess for you might be tidy enough for others. Make yourself clear. Break the task down into a set of simple requirements. Make a comprehensible visual reference of what you want them to achieve. Model it yourself or take a picture of the result you expect. Instead of saying Get packed say Put your books into your bag and show how its done. This also will serve you well with your own children. Sometimes, you can avoid many misunderstandings even with your partner, if you make yourself clear instead of assuming you already are.
#tbh What Autism Has Taught Me
Written by: Ned Carlson
With our #TBH campaign, were giving parents, family members, and even children an outlet to share their truths about how autism has changed their lives. This campaign is all about getting real about autism, but its also about the challenges and stories that families encounter along their autism journey.
Last month, we saw how autism has inspired the Trumpet team, but a different theme appeared among the #TBH stories we collected during Autism Awareness Month: learning.
When asked how autism has changed their lives, parents, caretakers, teachers, and community members shared the lessons theyve learned and the truths theyve come to know.
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Lessons Ive Learned From My Child With Autism
As parents, a great deal of our job in rearing our children is teaching them everything. From first steps and first words to teaching basic life skills, such as tying their shoes, and the ability to read and write, our whole job revolves around guiding them so they can learn from us. Sometimes, however, we learn more from our children than we could ever imagine teaching them. This has certainly been the case for me as Ive raised my child with High Functioning Autism. He has taught me so much more than I could ever convey in one article, but here are five of the most important lessons Ive learned from him:
Lessons Ive Learned Working With Children On The Autism Spectrum
- Lessons Ive Learned Working with Children on the Autism Spectrum
Autism has taught me more in the last 15 years than I would have ever imagined. Yes, my job is to teach children on the autism spectrum how to communicate and interact, but they have also taught me compassion and flexibility. I have learned that every child with this particular diagnosis is brilliant and unique in their own way. The children who are non-verbal have shown time and time again that when I find a way to give them the ability to communicate, they have been absorbing and listening to everything! The children that fall into the high functioning category are far more intelligent than I would ever hope to be. They correct me if I am wrong and often teach mesomething new. That brutal honesty has made me humble and has shown me that every person has something to teach someone something new. There are also the children on the spectrum that kick me, hit me, and bite me. I have learned over the years that this is their way of communicating something to me. It is up to me to problem solve and figure out what they need at that moment to learn. It has also given me reflexes of a Jedi in training.
Here is my contribution to awareness of ASD and social communication as I have learned over the years.
- There are now 3 levels: of Autism Spectrum Disorders.
- Level 1: Some support needed
- Level 2: Moderate support needed
- Level 3: Significant support needed.
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Rock N Roll Will Never Die
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What My Child With Autism Has Taught Me
It was an ordinary summer day. People were milling on the main thoroughfare, bikes zig-zagging through traffic, cafés and pubs spilling onto the sidewalk, patrons sipping their way through a lazy Friday afternoon.
We were ordinary that day too. Just another family, managing the hectic jumble of kids’ lessons, bills, our careers, endless streams of birthday parties, too little sleep and the occasional date night out.
But it was all shattered with a single word: autism.
“Your son has autism,” said the child psychologist, who was neither gentle nor particularly sympathetic when she delivered the blow that knocked us flat for the better part of a year. I thought I had prepared for this moment. After all, we had long suspected our youngest son, Casey, wasn’t following the traditional path. At age three and a half, he was affectionate, happy-go-lucky and bright, but he was struggling to speak beyond two or three word phrases, and would happen upon a word or an activity and get stuck there with a seemingly endless “repeat” button. He also had fine motor skill difficulties, gut problems, sleep issues and some other behavioural challenges — things we would later learn are all associated with autism spectrum disorder .
That would all change.
As any writer who is also a parent of young children knows, it is challenging enough to shave off quiet time for yourself every day to pause, and then write. Having a child with special needs made that challenge almost impossible.
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I Needed To Find Cooper
After a few days of grieving I turned all my energy into helping my son. I found blogs, books, website, forums. I made phone calls. I joined support groups. His disability energized me in a way that is hard to describe. I became his advocate almost seamlessly. I scoured YouTube like an FBI agent. I wanted to find stories where everything turned out okay. I just need to find one story of a little boy on the severe end of the spectrum, who was nonverbal, and was extremely rigid, and didnt sleep. I needed to find my Cooper in another child.
Ill tell you a secret. I couldnt find one.
Everybody Is Somebody’s Weirdo
What unites humanity is vast and wonderful.
In the tapestry that is being human, you will always find someone who will seem odd to you. Likewise, you will always be peculiar to someone else. That is no reason for fear or hatred.
In finding out how oddball you are to some people, you can grow a wider appreciation of your own biases.
We all have them. We are all human.
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Important Lessons Autistic People Have Taught Me
This mom’s understanding of autism and her own son changed radically after reading the writings of autistic people and talking with them.
Since my son got an autism diagnosis five years ago, I’ve learned a lot about how to help him learn, grow, and thrive. In the beginning, much of this advice came from books written by parents and “experts,” but my understanding of autism, neurodiversity, and my own son changed radically when I started reading the writings of autistic people and talking with them. Because of this, I’d like to take a moment to elaborate on six of the most important lessons I’ve learned so far from autistic people.
1. They are “autistic,” not “people with autism.”
Although there is a strong push for person-first language in the mainstream media and in therapeutic circles, the autistic community pushes back against that, arguing that autism is neurology, not disease. Therefore, we should talk about it like an attribute of a person, not an affliction. If we truly want to accept autistic people, we can’t be constantly pathologizing an essential part of them.
2. My voiceand other parent voicesshould not monopolize the conversation on autism.
3. Compliance training can be incredibly damaging.
4. Ableism runs deep in our culture, and we should fight against it.
5. The future holds so much possibility.
Be Attentive And Thoughtful
With ASD students, there is no one-size-fits-all solution . Try to see what bothers each of them. Someone finds it difficult to concentrate because of the noisy environment. Another one gets distracted by the colorful chaos of pictures on the wall. Someone might find too many choices overwhelming. Having a spectrum child in your class reminds you how unique all students are, thus encouraging you to be inventive and to find an individual approach to each of them.
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Never Take A Milestone For Granted
While raising my neurotypical children, I was proud of milestones like first words and first sentences, but it wasnt until my son with autism came along that I realized just how precious these milestones can be. He was nonverbal until almost four years of age, and now he can carry on a conversation about a topic of interest for hours. I will never take one word he speaks for granted because Ill never forget those years I waited so impatiently, praying that one day I would be able to hear his little voice. The most important lesson my child taught me is to savor every special, precious, unique moment and rejoice in every milestone.
What My Daughter With Autism Has Taught Me About Winning
As Simone Biles debates wage on social media and across dinner tables everywhere this summer, Ive been distracted by another young woman who I know would understand and salute Biles decision to give herself a time out. My daughter, Erin, who has autism, does not care about the Olympics or gold medals, but she knows what it takes to practice self-care and to be happy.
When Erin was born in London 20 years ago, I imagined that maybe someday shed win Wimbledon. I grew up playing competitive tennis so it seemed an entertaining speculation. Little did I know how much this child had to teach me about what it means to win.
Since she could hold a marker, Erin has been practicing how to write her name. While its still a work in progress and I have faith she will get there, over the years Erin has taught me that knowing how to write your name is not as important as knowing your name and the names of the people you love.
When Erin meets someone named Tommy, she lights up and says, We have a Tommy, referencing a childhood friend who lives next door.
Shes also eager to learn the names of all who cross her path. As she studies the;person at the Stop N Shop checkout she never fails to ask, Whats your name? Men and women on the other side of counters everywhere look up, somewhat perplexed, smile and reply, And whats yours?
Getty image by Josu Oskaritz.
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What Having A Child With Autism Has Taught Me
When my son was first diagnosed on the spectrum I immediately dove into research. Thats the kind of mom I was. I wanted to be educated. I wanted to help my son in every way possible.
Of course I took a few days to be really sad. Im not scared to admit that. The diagnosis, although not unexpected, hit me like a ton of bricks. I remember I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me. I didnt know what to do, how to act, or where to start. My son had a label. I was the mom to a little boy with Autism. My life felt foreign to me.
I remember just sitting in my living room watching Cooper as he watched TV for hours. I wanted to see if he seemed autistic. Was he different than before the diagnosis? He seemed no different in my opinion. Same beautiful kid.
Because Everyone Else Does It
Autists reveal what are social norms because they often flout them . This in turn reveals that much more of the world is built upon social norms than I had thought.
We do things because other do things. Lemmings. Herd mentality. All well documented. Yet it goes deeper to matters you would not question until an autist throws it, into stark relief.
Why do boys wear blue and girls pink? They did not 80 years a go. It’s a social norm created by marketeers. Why do we shake hands ? . Why don’t we speak truth to power ? Most autists I observe do not lie. If a person is fat, why not say they are fat ? Is it more harmful to turn from the truth Question if something is right, do not rely on the fact that everyone else does it.
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Things Being The Mom Of An Autistic Child Has Taught Me
Once upon a time, I began to realize my amazing first-born stood out more than I thought. I knew he was special, with his infectious affection and incredible jump-up-and-down-arm-flapping excitement. I knew he saw the world with passion; he reacted severely both in joy and displeasure. I knew his heart was full and his mind was active, yet as he continued to grow, the development of his abilities was unlike other children. He knew his alphabet and numbers by a few months after his 2nd birthday, but he couldnt string two words together. He could put together a 24-piece puzzle, but he couldnt hear no without reacting with force, frustration and anger.
After my father visited and gently advised that I check, I read and read and didnt sleep for days. I knew my son is Autistic. I also knew it wasnt a tragedy. I knew it meant more effort to teach some things, but it also meant gifts, lessons and joy I wouldnt know otherwise. Still, the reality of parenting can be filled with uncertainty.
So I continued to learn all I could, both about autism and about my sons uniqueness. Most of all, though, I had to learn how to balance apparent opposites in my parenting and, honestly, in all other aspects of my life. I had to learn how to balance conviction and flexibility, discipline and gentility, endurance and self-care.
1. It taught me that every behavior has a motive and an end. It is not without reason.
2. It taught me to be patient.
3. It taught me to exercise self-care.