Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Autism Awareness Day!

April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2nd is Autism Awareness day. Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means that autism runs from classic autism, with non communicating, unreachable kids, all the way to ADD type behavior. My son Isaac has Asperger Syndrome, otherwise known as high functioning autism. While he has a high IQ, he struggles with social skills that other kids pick up on easily.

Most of us recognize a child with classic autism easily, so I'm not going to cover that, but instead talk about the more subtle signs of higher functioning autism.

Kids with Asperger's Syndrome typically:

Struggle with social cues, reading body language, and expressing emotion.
For our son, that meant he couldn't tell when I was angry or upset by looking at my face. When I would wrinkle up my forehead as I was thinking, he'd run, or get scared. When he was upset, rather than being able to identify what he was feeling, he'd use "code words" to let us know. His obsession when he was 2-3 years was Toy Story, and he's call us "hockey pucks" when he was mad at us, because that's what Woody said when he was upset.

Dislike changes in routine.
For us, that meant knowing what each day held, as soon as possible. He would greet me each morning with "What are we doing today?", and if that plan changed, he was inconsolable.

Have a formal style of speaking that is sometimes advanced for his age.
Isaac spoke his first word at 10 months, was speaking full sentences at a year. He always has spoken like a child much older than himself. He has an enormous vocabulary, and isn't afraid to use it!

Take things very literally.
When introduced the the phrase "kill two birds with one stone", Isaac was astounded that anyone would want to kill birds with rocks. Knowing this was a common issue, we have worked very hard to teach him to look for these funny phrases, and now he collects them!

Be preoccupied with a specific interest.
I'm not talking about the toddler who's crazy about Elmo, but a step beyond that. One of Isaac's first obsessions was Thomas the Tank Engine. He slept with his trains. He wouldn't wear a shirt that didn't have Thomas on it. He lined up his food, named all the peas after the trains. He would twist every conversation to be about the trains. His was an overwhelming obsession. We couldn't leave the toy store without a new Thomas, or my calm and compliant child would sob, brokenheartedly, for DAYS!

Have delayed motor development.
Isaac didn't walk until 15 months. This is the outer edge of "normal". He did not choose a hand dominance until he was nearly 7. This is typically chose before the age of 4. He could not skip until he was 6. He couldn't ride a bike until he was 9. He still struggles with clumsiness, coordination and fine motor control.

Has trouble with loud noises, food and clothing textures, bright lights.
As a preschooler, Isaac would get very hyper in noisy, crowded places. He couldn't stand to wear swishy sweatpants, wouldn't eat ANY meat. His food choices were very limited, because he preferred food for have a consistent texture.

I've covered the things that stood out to me as memorable from our experience. For a better list and more info, please look here:

Now, for the good stuff. Isaac is an amazingly intelligent, gentle and thoughtful boy. He is a delight to talk to, and is well read. He can hold a conversation with a college professor, and hold his own. He has a drive to learn, and can not be held back. He works hard to learn to understand social interactions, and has many friends. I am SO blessed ho have him as my son!


missy said...

thanks for this post. love that boy!
thanks for the tip on April Fool's. problem is, bill doesn't squirt his pants. :) did you hear about my faux pas with the meal. i'm a mess.

Katie Sindelar said...

thanks for the asperger's "typicals." once i'm done reading way too much about diabetes, i plan to educate myself a little more on the topic. isaac is a smarty -- i know his vocabulary is more impressive than mine! :)

Rachael said...

UNO is doing a fundraiser and an awareness in the paper today. rach