Tag Archives: autism
It’s Autism Awareness month. I’ve been planning to write about autism. The month is half over. I’ve written twice: once to say “I’m writing” and once to say “Here’s what I think I know.” The comments on those posts have taught more than the posts.
I have a list of related posts, germs of ideas, things I want to find out. But, it seems, other projects and responsibilities intrude. I can’t do the research that I would like to do be offer answers here, to have great insights.
I wanted, for example, to find out what it is like when autism is part of a family. What’s it like to be a mom, for example?
Katie Donahue Bevins answers those questions, writing as a poet.
I dragged Sean into the house, his voice screeching, saying over and over,
“I want a new Mommy!”
All I could think was, “Good luck with that. You’re stuck with the one you’ve got.”
Chantal Sicile-Kira answers those questions as an “author, speaker, autism expert:”
When he was little, it was very hard figuring out how to reach him, how to teach him basic skills. Nothing seemed to work for Jeremy as it did for other children with autism. I had to quit my work (in TV and film production) in order to teach him and to do physical therapy exercises with him every day.
To this day, although he has proven how smart he is, his motor skills and sensory processing challenges are such that he requires supports for many aspects of every day life. We are working on helping him become as independent as possible, by trying different therapies to work on motor skills and sensory processing.
I wanted to offer insight, that is, until I realized that awareness isn’t about being an expert, about having the most profound insights. Sometimes being aware is about stopping long enough to notice.
These moms are worth noticing.
It’s autism awareness month. I want to be more aware.
So I decided to start by listing everything I think I know. That way, when I learn more, I can see what I have learned. Please note that these are what I think I know, rather than anything I have evidence for. Yet.
1. It’s a neurological thing
2. It’s environmental somehow.
3. Can’t directly diagnose, have to work from symptoms.
4. Can’t cure, have to accommodate.
5. More cases are showing up. But I don’t know if it’s because more are being diagnosed or more are happening.
6. Therapy is a conditioning thing
7. It’s somehow related to Dustin Hoffman in “Rainman”
8. Not an IQ issue.
9. Not genetic.
10. Often invisible to people looking.
11. Often involves repeated motions.
12. Doesn’t usually result in institutionalization.
13. Can’t just snap out of it, but can seem to snap into it.
14. Lack of awareness by other people adds to the frustration parents already feel.
15. There are a bunch of related conditions.
16. I don’t know what to call autism.
17. I have friends for whom autism isn’t an abstract concept.
So, if you don’t have personal contact with autism, what do you think you know about autism? Don’t look it up. Just leave a comment.
And, you may want to get this window into what autism looks like.
I spent the winter of 1978 sleeping. Not the whole winter. Just big parts of 75 minutes in the afternoon in Blanchard Hall. I was in class.
I took Child and Adolescent Psychology because I thought I needed a psych course and it sounded more interesting (and less invasive) than General Psychology. I think Jean Rupp was the professor. I think the class was on third floor Blanchard. I’m not sure because I slept in class, sitting in the back, next to the warm, sleep-inducing heating pipe.
I remember little. I do remember writing a paper on autism, a paper in which I was intrigued by the effects of autism, a sense of being overwhelmed by sensory input. Or that’s what I think I remember from the paper about autism.
I’m dragging you down this potholed lane of my memory to make a confession.
Based on that paper in college, the content of which I little remember, from a class I little remember, I act as if I understand autism. I smile and nod sympathetically when it is mentioned, as if I know that 1 in 110 children is affected by autism. But I am basing my pretended awareness on having looked at the subject for an assignment more than 30 years ago.
I’m guessing that we do that a lot. We think we understand something based on a brief experience years ago. Often, we don’t go beyond that. This time I want to. April is Autism Awareness month. I’m going to increase my awareness. If you keep coming here, you are too.
Starting next week.