My son is on the spectrum, “lightly brushed” as some would say. Diagnosed with PDD-NOS at the age of 4, when his daycare mentioned that he was “different, not sure if it’s anything, but why not get him assessed?”. He wasn’t “symptomatic” at home – he had eye contact (with us anyway), a huge vocabulary,and was social and affectionate (still is). He’s an only child, so there was no neuro-typical yardstick to compare him to. And his parents are quirky – I’m pretty geeky, and dad’s probably skirting the edges of the spectrum himself. The diagnosis was a bit of a surprise, but not a big one.
Not a whole lot changed after his diagnosis. He attended PPCD at the local elementary school and did well. He’s now attending elementary school and is doing fine. He receives speech and a bit of OT support, and his classroom teacher is great. She works with him, and with us – she “gets it”.
I have always been a connected parent – I’ve always looked beyond autocratic “because I said so” disciplined DS (hubby feels the same). I figured if my child knows the WHY of behaving that he would behave better consistently.
Little did I know that this would be a big help where his autism is concerned. He’s very literal, and having a true understanding of the “why” of things makes life a lot easier for him in general. As a result, I HAVE to be a thoughtful parent. Taking his understanding of “how to behave” for granted doesn’t work – it just makes everyone frustrated. An added benefit is that connecting to the why’s makes me think more deeply about things that have been done “just because” or “always been done that way”. I have to think before I just say “no” because sometimes the no is a reflex and really doesn’t make sense.
We neurotypicals take SO MUCH for granted. Having to think hard about what might be causing a meltdown makes you REALLY pay attention to your child’s needs, challenges, etc., because a little forethought can completely change an experience from a mess to a happy time. It also makes you pay attention to yourself and your own emotional state. Kids are “radar dishes” for the emotions of their parents – multiply that x10 for spectrum kiddos. It forces you to not sweat the small stuff or waste emotional energy on something that really doesn’t deserve it.
My son has an emotional pureness that moves me deeply. His love for us is boundless and obvious. He’s 7, and still has an unfettered joy about things he loves. It’s something that many other kids his age seem to be loosing, especially the boys – because, you know, they have to be tough.
He also sucks at lying. This can be good or bad, depending on the situation (LOL). Doing something he’s not supposed to? Good. Not being happy about a gift he’s received? Not so great. We’re working on learning social niceties while trying to avoid the little white lies that they’re often wrapped up in.
Connecting to someone else, to the world, to deeper thinking, to alternate ways of thinking – I don’t think I would have done it at such a deep level if it weren’t for my amazing autistic son.