Monday, November 18, 2013
Written by firstname.lastname@example.org
My boychik is joyful. Snuggly. Fantastically intelligent (the IQ tests finally caught up). Highly verbal.
My boychik is very, very, VERY lucky in his "uncle" Adam. Years before I met my sweet child, I knew Adam from assorted Internet fora, including alt.callahans, #callahans, #filkhaven, LiveJournal, and now Dreamwidth and Facebook.
Had it not been for Adam, my first introduction to autism would have been, well, pretty much every parent's introduction, thanks to stigmatization. "HI YOUR CHILD HAS THIS HORRIBLE PLAGUE."
Adam has had difficulties and he is VERY open about them. But as he points out in his own flashblog, no-one supported him. Why? He's not "Rain Man," that's why. The world is not set up to accommodate autistic sociology professors, because they don't believe that autistic people could possibly understand sociology.
Let me tell you: I had long conversations with Adam about facial expressions and body language. I know EXACTLY how he became interested in sociology and I heard him figuring out how to connect the things he instinctively knew with the clues his senses were giving him and the books he was studying. And I never had any doubt that he would not only achieve his PhD, but do so with honors. And he did.
Coming back to my son.
My boychik had issues eating solid food and gross motor movements, and just before his first birthday, he was referred to Early Intervention. At thirteen months, he was evaluated for autism and received the first diagnosis of Pervasive Developmental Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, which keeps getting confirmed, even if his teachers and therapists are now saying "well, he's so DIFFERENT at age 8 than he was at age 3, maybe we were wrong?"
See, I took my Dad's advice of narrating the world to my baby, just as I would to a typical baby. I showed him pictures of people. I talked about facial expressions and tones of voice and what they meant, all the time. When his sister was born, I did the same, with the added fillip of making certain that she crossed the midline to reach for toys, since I'd learned the importance of that from her brother.
I learned a lot from all of boychik's therapists and teachers, and what I took to heart was that which made my boychik stronger, healthier, and happier. Rather than letting him be cowed or molded to some theoretical ideal, I worked very hard at explaining why we use social lubricant like please and thank you, why we call some people bossy and why it's not a good thing, and explaining how some of his actions are okay and some are not, and some are really awesome.
There are issues my boychik has that I find confusing and in some cases unsanitary, and adults on the autism spectrum have reassured me that they are normal.
Yeah, I used the N word.
N O R M A L.
Autistic people are not an epidemic. Autistic people are not to be hidden, stigmatized, or crowded into cubbyholes.
Autistic people are creative and expressive and founts of knowledge on their favorite subjects. Some are introverts and some are extroverts. The only thing that I have seen in common between people on the spectrum is intensity. Every autistic person I know is intensely themselves. They live every moment and they can't easily turn it off even to sleep.
My son is a happy and silly third-grade student with Mad Arithmetic Skillz who has read his Lego catalogs to shreds and wants to be a mechanic, or a plumber, or maybe a mechanical designer. He still spaces out when his thoughts race. He can sit amazingly still for hours and watch television and then processes what he sees and hears by spinning all his inputs into long stories that sound like waking dreams. He absolutely thinks faster than he speaks and much faster than he writes. I bought him a graph paper pad to use for drawing after watching how he draws, and it delighted him.
He goes to a special-needs Hebrew school where he gets to be silly and flappy and learn all at the same time, with teen volunteers who can be both friends and teachers. Here's a picture:
He is one of the faces of autism. I adore him to bits. And he's not a puzzle piece, he's a person. And he's going to be the best himself he can be.