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Friday, February 09, 2007

Autism – who has it toughest?

I’ll give you one guess. That’s right! Parents. Does the autistic child bother that he or she is autistic? Of course not. He just ‘is.’
I suspect that different parents have different experiences of autism. There are a certain percentage of parents who receive a diagnoses for their child and embrace the news openly, after a period of adjustment. Such people are the fluffy granola head types of parent. Are they phased and devastated by the news? Does their life come to an end? No, not these troopers, they accept the diagnoses and work with it. They adapt and grow with their children.

Other groups of parents, have a different reaction entirely. These parents are more than severely miffed by the diagnoses. Such parents had a plan, a diagnoses of autism wasn’t in the plan. Most things that aren’t in the plan can be ameliorated, limited or disposed of, but autism doesn’t fit happily into any of those categories. That is the main stumbling block. The anal parents club, of which I am the primary member, hold up the ‘life plan’ and wave it at anyone they can, screaming complaints, ‘not fair! Don’t do this to me!’

My club’s main objection to autism is how it messes with my own life. Members generally have a narrow viewpoint, a small island that signifies their safety zone and an aversion to learning or doing anything new. If the member is also elderly, you can more or less guarantee that the limitations are cast in stone and ingrained. Whilst they give the impression that they lead a full life, in reality they are treading water pending death, whether that is a few years or a few decades away. This parent cannot see that their life is not dissimilar to that of a hamster on a wheel, cannot see past the bars on the cage.

Whilst they may be the epitome of selfishness, fortunately someone arrives with a key, and not a moment too soon!

Early days 1 – battle of the sexes

I had two girls. I knew I could do girls, but as a raging feminist, I was doubtful whether I could manage boys. After a few months of my pregnancy, I suspected that rather than being ‘with child’ I was ‘with boy.’ I found that my favourite staple food, bananas, had turned to poison. I started to seriously consider what I would do if the bump was born a boy?

I would teach him to cook and darn socks. I would ensure that he was in touch with his inner child and his feminine side. I would make him into the perfect mate. What were you supposed to do with boys? Everyone, just everyone always said how different boys were. I was worried.

When the first boy arrived I liked him a great deal. He was cuddly and quiet, a peaceful adorable baby, except if you put him down. He had been installed with a motion detector in his bottom. As long as he was vertical and attached, life was bliss. So the difference between boys and girls wasn’t that great, possibly even preferable. It looked as if I was going to be able to do boys after all!

By the time the next boy came along I discovered another difference between girls and boys. Boys did not like push chairs. [translation = strollers] That was o.k. too. I put the little guy in one of those modern contraptions that straps the baby to your chest and carried the bigger one, both vertical, both quiet.

Of course they talked late, but boys do, don’t they, everyone knows that. It was only much much later that I began to understand something called deep proprioceptive input. [translation – squishing a child helps them become more grounded. It is calming and reassuring which helps them feel safer too] It was later still that the connection between autism and sensory integration began to make sense.

In the meantime, whilst I may look like a stick insect, I have the upper body strength of a building contractor, but that’s what happens if you carry two small people until they reach 45 and 59 lbs respectively.

Mind over matter

I take him outside with me and leave spouse to clean up inside. He sits on the gravel in a pout. It’s not so much a punishment as merely keeping him out of the way whilst spouse labours and manges the other two. The gravel is entertainment for him whilst I continue to plant the flower bed. He is a sensitive little soul at the best of times but is quite content with the gravel. Whilst it would be entertaining for me to have him ‘help,’ to do an activity together, I know that dealing with soil [translation = dirt] is well out of his comfort zone.

My elderly neighbour ambles over for a chat. She’s a Texan who doesn’t mince her words.
“Gee hon, that’s looking gor gee us!”
“Thanks!” I mumble. She doesn’t press me for additional words, as she knows that the surgery has left me speech impaired, which gives her a distinct advantage.
“Oh god! Not that darned stuff agin! Remind me, let me see the packet. I know it works it just makes my flesh crawl. Bonemeal, that’s it!” she pulls a face of disgust being of a vegetarian persuasion. Junior pricks up his ears and leaps to our side, “Bone meal! Bone meal? It is lunch?”
“No yur mother puts it on the plants to make em grow.”
“But what it is dah bone meal?”
“Don ask hon. It’s bones that have bin all ground down into a powder!” I watch his eyes grow as large as saucers in his rigid body that leans backwards. His brain processes this information. A little electrical current courses through his body just before he vomits on the path.

He has a great gag reflex.

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