Autism Watch: 2007

Posts Tagged ‘awareness

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Yes, but it needs to really kick some butt at school.

What a week. The next time someone tells me “you’re so lucky your child is verbal,” I may have to say “yes, I’ll remember that next time I’m in the office dealing with yet another punishment for his verbal behavior.”

Folks, high-functioning autism, mild autism, Asperger’s, whatever you want to call it, is no picnic. It’s not a party. Not a cakewalk. Definitely not easy street. De-de-definitely not. (Sorry, the Rainman movie came to mind.) It’s autism, but on a level where they’re given enough independence to get in trouble and where their words can be used against. It’s autism, with its meltdowns, self-injurious behavior, lack of friends and social skills, obsessions, repetitive behaviors, lack of proper communication, sensory processing disorder, and other behavior issues. Just because he speaks and can attend a regular class doesn’t mean the autism is any less ‘real’ than any other severity of autism. He still struggles daily to handle himself and get through the day. He isn’t being controlling to be sneaky or be a brat, but instead, it’s to have his environment be comfortable and the restricted, routine way that makes him most comfortable.

Despite all that, daily, our kids are lost. They fall through the cracks but there’s those with ‘real’ disabilities to deal with. They appear normal, whatever that word means, to those who aren’t educated specifically in the autism spectrum, with focus on the word spectrum. Their ‘normal’ appearance is so misleading that others forget and try to fit them in the same mold as the neurotypical kids are in, and then they complain because the results aren’t what they think they should be.

Try to put a square peg in a round hole, and you may be able to hammer it in, but it will look awkward. It won’t all fit and it will stand out. It may crack and there will be gaps. So just because you get it in there doesn’t mean you were successful in anything other than forcing something that wasn’t supposed to happen. That’s my son, forced into the role of a round peg when he’s definitely a square peg. Is a square peg wrong? Not at all, but if you continually tell someone they need to behave differently than they are, they start to wonder why, and they start to feel badly about themselves. Then you can add self-esteem and confidence issues to the list of pre-existing problems caused by the autism — but these issues are caused by ignorance and not the autism directly.

My goal now is to increase autism awareness so that my son is happy. I want every child with autism to be happy, but I need to start with my own. Awareness month here is a big deal. We are putting out 12 blue light bulbs tonight so our yard is rimmed in blue. I’m dying some of my hair blue tonight — really, a bright dark metallic blue. Awareness ribbons, magnets and pins will be visible and I’ll be continuing to ask random businesses, and strangers, what they’re doing to further awareness, while explaining autism to everyone I can. But I am focusing on high-functioning autism, the children that don’t fit the mold, those that are misunderstood, and those that are falling in the cracks because few know what to do. My goal is to decrease the number of people who don’t know what to do with my son.

My son is my light, my joy, and a blessing to our lives. He is funny, smart, wise beyond his years, and thinks outside of the box. He has a mind for computers and logic that amaze me, and a memory that puts most to shame. His stories are so entertaining, and his lack of a verbal filter means he keeps us on our toes and gets adults thinking outside of the box too. Not a single person who has given him the chance to talk can say that he didn’t impact them. I hear throughout the years, from everyone who has worked with him or talked to him more than a minute or two (which isn’t nearly enough, because if you are uncomfortable around different people, you tend to not give him the chance he deserves, which is seriously your loss) that they love him and they want more time with him. People get him, if they open their minds and allow it to happen. Stop putting kids in a mold, see them for what they are, and accept them. Your lives will improve, you will learn more, and my son will face less discrimination. Win-win.

I’m off to go get the light bulbs ready and see if there’s a blue snack I can send to my son’s class tomorrow. He won’t know the significance of it, but adults might and if nothing else, how many snacks are blue? It’ll be yet another different exposure, and that’s never bad.

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Over the years, I’ve noticed how the autism community doesn’t always work together to help itself. It’s only my opinion — I’m just one of hundreds of thousands of moms with an opinion — but I can’t help but think there are probably a lot of people out there who would agree.

When my son was first diagnosed, I immediately joined several autism communities, online and off. Some I stayed with, some I didn’t; some were helpful, some were depressing; some were inclusive, others were cliques. In other words, just like the rest of the world, these groups represented the bad and the good parts of society and families. I took it with a grain of salt, and learned quickly that simply having a disabled child didn’t unite us as much as I thought it would.

We all come from different walks of life, and different perspectives. Some of us are drowning in autism research, others have moved beyond that. Neither is wrong, they are just different stages of dealing with having an autistic child. Some of us work outside the home, others are stay-at-home moms. Some of us have other children, some have other special-needs children, some of us have an only child. Some are married, some are single. Some are fully following biomedical treatments, and others follow whatever their doctors say. Some vaccinate, others selectively vaccinate, others don’t vaccinate at all. The group is diverse, and as a result of that, a huge pool of invaluable knowledge.

Now if only we could work together to use all that knowledge.

Instead, I see us judging each other. (I know, I know, I’ve written about it before, but as Autism Awareness Month comes up, with April 1st being Light It Up Blue day, via Autism Speaks, and April 2 being International Autism Awareness Day, I’m seeing more and more commentary coming up that just doesn’t seem in keeping with the ‘let’s help each other, we all have a kid with autism’ credo that people like to tell you they follow…but don’t always do.) Maybe I’m doing it too just by writing about it, but if we keep sweeping it under the rug, it will never go away.

I’m not a follower of any particular autism group. All of them have their downfalls, and some are worse than others. All of them also have their advantages and good points, even if they never touch the majority of those affected by autism. While I don’t fully agree with any of them, I’m a big believer in ‘any autism awareness is better than none.’ If it takes lighting my business storefront up with blue to get people to learn about autism, or to get people who know what blue means to think about autism, I’m going to do it. In fact, I’m going to dye some hair blue for the month — talk about getting attention, it’ll stand out a lot more than the puzzle piece keychain or vaccine t-shirt I wear the rest of the year.

Years ago, I needed some serious help in regards to an autism-related situation. The main group I’d been involved in basically put their hands up and wished me luck. Since then, I’ve seen them give money/services to others in the same situation while others, like me, get by with referrals from strangers online. Help isn’t readily available, but is given to those they choose, which seems more like a popularity contest or a ‘how biomedical orpro-vaccine are you? -based decision. I was twice refused inclusion in an article about autistic children because we weren’t biomedical ‘enough.’ To me, that a child that is improving with just a couple of biomedical treatments should be shouted to the world; shouldn’t we be telling people you don’t have to buy HBOT machines or mortgage your house again just to see some help? Instead, we have to be whole-hog or no one knows who we are. What a disservice to those with autism and to the message that autism can be improved.

I’ve talked to quite a few moms (and dads) the last couple of years who have gone radio silent — they disappear from lists, conversations, and support group meetings. When I inquire how they are, I hear that they’re just tired of the whole deal. Tired of the same few families being chosen to represent everyone else. Tired of the judgment they get for not being GFCF, or for letting their child get a vaccination. They’re tired of hearing what they’re doing wrong or being treated as though they’re stupid for letting their child take a prescription medication. Tired of being ignored or of not being part of the ‘in crowd’ because of a decision they’ve made that isn’t the party line. Some of these people desperately still need the support, and others were wonderful, giving members of our community who have much to offer by way of information and support. As a result of the negatives, we lose these people, and the opportunities they bring with them, because we can’t respect others’ opinions, feelings and choices. And to take it a step further, some people do more damage by trying to make their point, showing the world our lack of unity in a common cause, and time is wasted proving someone else ‘wrong’ or taking time/energy away from the positive that both sides could be doing.

I’m really hoping we can go into Autism Awareness Month together, and just be glad for the fact we have an awareness month. I personally tire of it not being as important/popular as other months. I know it’s not a fatal illness, per se, though the wandering children or those with seizures, their parents will say it is a fatal illness and they’d be correct. With the sheer numbers of those of us affected, it should be everywhere. So I’m going to do my part. If putting blue light bulbs up all over my yard gets people asking me why, then I’ll do it. Our neighbors know we have a reason, so they’ll ask. They see orange and black at Halloween, red and green at Christmas, so I’m glad to use a different color or it won’t get attention. My hair’s black, so I have to dye it an extreme color to get it noticed – blue works! Maybe I could get spray though and do puzzle pieces…. 😉

Be kind to one another. If someone doesn’t agree with you, it’s okay to disagree — just like I disagreed with my friend who told me that because her daughters were fine after shots must mean that shots are fine. But disagree respectfully. Remember the other people may have reasons for doing what they do, reasons you aren’t privy to, shouldn’t be privy to, or simply won’t understand because you don’t live in their house. And sometimes, sadly, they don’t want to understand, but it’s not your call. Assume nothing — and don’t judge. People learn a lot more from each other when information is presented politely, gently, and respectfully, not as though you’re a naughty child who just can’t stop licking an icy flagpole.

 

I whined yesterday about all the things going on, but once just isn’t enough. Be warned.

Awards event at school yesterday, and ds was unnecessarily upset (not his own fault, imo) by a technicality. Sometimes I really wish people would understand how important these things are to ASD kids. Little upsets that just aren’t worth the fight can ruin an entire afternoon. And this did. I’ll leave it at that, but I just want to be like other parents, go and watch something and have a smiley child who is enjoying himself. Heck, I’ll forego the smile, I just want him to enjoy himself.

With no respite last night, I had to tote him along with me to Borders. He didn’t want to go, but the bribe of a chocolate chip cookie was too strong to ignore. But..and this shouldn’t surprise me, given how our week is gone..Seattle’s Best was out of chocolate chip. They had some delicious looking other flavors, but no chip. Oh no, he’s getting anxious. Oh look, a bakery next door. Run across the street, find the cookie. Crisis averted. We find Jenny’s latest book on the “new” shelf, pay the cashier (feeling the ridiculously increased tax hike for the first time and nearly cry…if I feel it on a book, what about when I shop for clothes for the kids or order his new supplements??) and enjoy my non-fat Blackberry Cream Latte. The little things in life. I was trying to keep ds calm about his cookie, then realized: would I be upset if I couldn’t get a coffee right then? Probably.

I am exhausted. I am so thankful it’s Friday. I’m not sure if the weekend will be a relaxing one, it’s too early to tell — as in, I don’t know until five minutes beforehand, and sometimes not even then — but at least I won’t be throwing work into the mix. I’ve been working earlier most days anymore, so I can be sure to put in my time around any issues with ds. It’s do-able, but when you dream of being chased by scary dogs, when ds isn’t coming into your room due to another nightmare, sleep is fragmented.

Today we’re going back to Kirkman’s chewable multi-vite. Ds isn’t currently GFCF so it’s fine. We saw the biggest improvement on it, but he hates the taste. I am not a walking checkbook, so I’d like to get him to use this bottle before I switch to a liquid or other version of it. I’m also starting him on double S. boulardii, a good probiotic to combat the yeast that’s probably built back up in his system. We did an anti-yeast protocol around 18-20 months ago and it was fantastic but it can return so it’s a good time to try again.

And, because it’s fun, ds is home from school again. Okay, it’s not really fun but you gotta laugh to get through the neverending stuff or you’ll go crazy. He woke up at 5:40am and said his leg is burning. No swelling, joint is fine, but it hurts to touch. What now? He’s near tears, and when he’s not looking, we tested it by touching the leg. OUCH!! So, a new symptom added to the mix. We’ve decided that it’s time to go back to no dietary infractions: all homecooked/homebaked stuff and no dyes. (Dad bought him Fruit Gushers earlier this week, which to me is just a big package of HFCS and dye, but Dad was giving in to a sweet boy who’d already had a lot of stuff going on and really wanted to try the gushers. Who knew.) He also had a couple of processed foods, like pizza pockets. Yanking those out of the diet too. He was already acting odd/off by then, with the lip licker’s dermatitis and headaches, so at least we can’t blame those on bad food, we really are careful with his diet. But this leg thing has thrown me for a loop.

It’s a rainy day here, so I’ll be getting the fireplace going shortly and will make it a snuggle & cuddle day. We got AT&T U-verse installed, so he can watch anything he records on any tv, and he’s got his own tv in his room. Well-worth the cost. (And the money we’re saving over our prior services is a good thing, too. TV, phone and high-speed internet together is way cheaper.)

Enjoy the weekend. Not sure if I’ll be blogging or not. I do have to say I’m disappointed I saw so little about World Autism Awareness Day, other than some online mentions in the appropriate autism-related places/communities. Nothing on TV or on the news. I guess it’s less important than what the latest loser celebrity is doing or other ridiculous news stories I did see on. Shows you where our priorities lie.

Anyone active in autism awareness has heard about his offensive and inaccurate ‘public service’ campaign, being run by the NYU’s Child Study Center. And this group supposedly has the best interest of children at its heart? And they are ‘professionals’ in child study and care? “Giving back children their childhood” is a slogan on their site. How does this campaign even begin to accomplish that? To me, it’s just ironic. But I digress.

To start, check out the details: Ransom Notes Campaign

My first question, one of many: to what public does this campaign serve? Not me or anyone I know. I don’t want my child stigmatized by the ignorant any further than he already is. I also don’t want him considered to have a ‘mental health’ disorder. I already have enough of a hassle getting funding for much-needed programs.

My second question: since when is autism a psychiatric disorder? (Again, I say, this is being stated by a center that supposedly helps children? They don’t even appear to know their medical diagnoses well.) Autism is a neurological disorder. A neurological disorder that has actual and real physical manifestations/symptoms.

My third question: if my child is kidnapped, who is here in my house cuddling with me in the morning, telling me he loves me, and giving me a 30-minute dissertation on the assets of all 300+ Pokemon? This is a child who is a hostage to a psychiatric disorder? Wow, maybe I should give myself up to be kidnapped, too.

This whole ‘public service’ campaign reeks of ignorance and sensationalism to get attention. The intention to shock is over the top and unnecessary. What a ginormous waste of time and money, even if it is being handled pro bono. Why not spend that time and money on getting help for those children, instead of telling people to seek help, when that help is completely and totally difficult to get?

Granted, if 1 in 94 boys were being kidnapped, someone would do something about it. But, 1 in 94 boys get autism and we’re still floundering on long waiting lists for programs, paying for attorneys to fight for things to help our child, and fighting with dareisayit, uneducated ‘professionals’ in the school and medical system who don’t know squat about autism as it is. So is “kidnapped” supposed to get attention? And if so, whose?

I’ve learned over the years that not all publicity is good publicity. There are indeed many forms of PR out there that can harm something and cause even more misunderstanding and problems than already existed, and this campaign is one of them.


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