Saturday, July 16, 2011

My Son Has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and I Consider Myself Fortunate

     If you were to walk past my son in a crowd, most likely you wouldn't know he had autism. He is high functioning and right where he needs to be academically but, he still struggles with appropriate social behavior in unfamiliar situations. Just a little over 3 years ago, he couldn't leave the house without getting frustrated, screaming & hitting himself. Trying to go inside any store (ie grocery, pharmacy, etc.) was a nightmare waiting to happen. And if we made it past the entrance into the opening of a particular store, we had to make every minute count! No living carefree, without a "mission" or flying by the seat of our pants...if we were to survive the "meltdowns" we would have to have a plan!! So, I started explaining, every step of the way, to our son what we needed to do and what he would be rewarded with if we could accomplish that small task. Now, this was about 1 year before he was diagnosed with autism and we had been agonizing through this phase for close to 2 years already. Who would believe that by tackling something as small as getting him to agree to be "your special assistant" at the grocery store, to distract him from whatever it was that bothered him, would benefit you, him and EVERYONE around him?!? And when we actually received an official diagnosis that he had an autism spectrum disorder, it was tough at first to hear the words but, it explained a lot of the questions we hadn't been able to answer for a long time.
     No one knows exactly what causes autism. It could be a number of factors including those currently being researched such as genes, environment, vaccines, drugs given to pregnant mothers to keep them from going into labor too early, etc. What we do know is that the statistics show the number of children affected by ASD are increasing dramatically. In 1999, it was 1 in every 10,000 children that was diagnosed with autism. When our son was diagnosed a little over 3 years ago, it was 1 in every 150 children. The last I heard, it was 1 in every 110 children. Those devastating figures also tell us that 1 in every 70 are boys and that every 20 minutes a parent is told that their child is on the autism spectrum. I was one of those parents and I am here to tell you that it is not the end of the world!
     I am not an expert but, I am most willing to share our family's experiences, if there is someone out there struggling somewhat similiar to how we used to. Not every child or circumstance is the same...don't let that voice inside you convince you that you are a failure as a parent! There are informational resources out there but, most importantly, be willing to ask for help from family and friends. Everyone needs "me time" or a few minutes to ourselves, whether it's a trip to the store alone or time to read that book that you have been wanting to read since Christmas. I started something I refer to as "putting myself in time out" helped me. After a while, my son started to realize that no one is perfect and told me that he enjoyed quiet time. That was another learning experience for me. Whenever he started getting frustrated, I made sure that we had a place for him to calm down away from the situation he had just been in. If I can learn atleast one thing each and every day, I consider myself a millionaire!
     If you are still reading what I intended to be a short post, I appreciate the time you have taken to do so. It means a lot that I was able to keep your interest. Please feel free to leave me a comment. Again I apologize for writing a novel! ((hugs))

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