Dora Wilson (Guest Blogger) @ Kids Matter
“I am different, not less.” Temple Grandin, animal behavior expert and author of The Autistic Brain
Autism is a dirty word in most homes, especially homes of young children. Some 20 years ago, I opened the doors of my home to the beast of autism. Our home has never been the same. Of course, as when dealing with wild beasts, you either tame it or allow it to control you. We, as a family, decided to embrace, cultivate, understand, and subdue the beast of autism.
Today, most people are aware of autism. According to Autism World, autism occurs in 1 out of every 110 births. One child is diagnosed every 20 minutes, which is an astonishing number. There are approximately 24,000 new cases recorded per year. As autism becomes more and more common, changes in our home, school, and society as a whole must take place to accommodate the growing population of people who are affected by this disorder.
Some individuals with autism have a problem with communication. Many have little to no verbal language ability. Socialization is another problem. The small things that people take for granted in social settings are very foreign to people who have a disorder falling within the autism spectrum. Odd or undesirable behaviors are other problems that may accompany the diagnosis of autism. The list goes on and on. It is advisable that children be taken for regular checkups and for parents to pay close attention to the milestone guidelines that physicians supply. If you have a healthy child and are going through that list checking off the things your child can do… when you finish, go back up that list and imagine your checks were for not able to do and you will get an idea of what life is like with an autistic child.
Often, I’m asked how our family deals with the ongoing changes and challenges of autism. If I could sum it up in two words they would be, laughter and faith. We have learned to separate what is autistic behavior from the personality of my son. We know and believe that all life is worth living and most challenges make you wiser, stronger, and more understanding. We laugh because most people take life and the little things too seriously. My son, Jarred, has a wonderful sense of humor. His smile is addictive. Jarred is able to bring a ray of sunshine to an all too gloomy situation. People who have autism tend to see things at face value. The concerns of fashion, money, and prestige, are not important to them. The love of nature, the fascination of machines, and the wonders of the world are more likely to keep them occupied. Yes, rough days are frequent at our house. Full moons, change in the weather, and unplanned schedule changes can, and do, bring about anxiety. However, we have had many wonderful days with time spent peering out the door laughing and watching squirrels rediscover the ground void of snow, laughing at young children playing innocently and laughing at absolutely nothing simply because… laughing is contagious. We have tried new food and laughed because no one loved it, but Jarred. We have even cried together as family simply because a country song he loves moved him to tears.
Life with autism is not easy. But, is life ever easy? Autism is not the end. It’s only what you make of it. Never dwell on what things could be like in your home or for your child. Spend every precious moment living in the now, where your child is. Create wonderful memories and make life fun and exciting. The battles you face will not miraculously go away but, the joy you get from your autistic child will light even your darkest moments.