At 42 Degrees

At 42 Degrees

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Autism: What It Is, And Isn't

Autism Awareness Day 2017

Five years have flown by since our little guy was first flagged for Autism in 2012.

Although Apraxia, the inability to say what you want to say when you want to say it, was our son's first diagnosis.

In 2012 when our speech pathologist very gently told me our youngest son has severe Apraxia, I merely replied, "Okay." -- because I had NO IDEA what in the world the ramifications of that diagnoses would encompass. That same day our speech pathologist also 'flagged' our two year old son for Autism. It would be many tests and another year before that diagnoses would be confirmed.

Honestly the only case of Autism I was aware of was the stereotypical 'movie' Rain Man (1988) with Dustin Hoffman,...of whom my son is nothing like.

First thing I learned about Autism, is incredibly complex and INDIVIDUALIZED.
If you've seen one child with Autism,...then you've only seen that's child's 'type' of Autism. Sensory issues, sleep issues, behavior issues, social issues, the gambit.

The characteristics that shape Autism are loosely bound,...some children line up toys, some do not, some have eating issues, some do not, some stim, some do not, some have sensory issues, some do not, some have sleep issues or rather most have sleep issues, but some children don't. And the list can go on and on into infinity.

It is no wonder the symbol for Autism is a puzzle piece.

But what is Autism?

Simply put, Autism is a developmental disorder with social/communication impairments, or in other words children on the Autism Spectrum do not follow 'typical' social/communication development. Instinctive social filters are not readily apparent with children on the spectrum,...which makes explaining Social Mumbo-Jumbo in our modern world,...a real challenge.

Why don't people like each other?
Why don't they get along?
Why don't they share?
Why don't they respect one another?

Hello,...maybe the entire world NEEDS to be on the spectrum!

To our little guy,...people are people,...and he'll put that in writing if anyone's confused.

Autism is a challenge, sugar coating this aspect,...melt downs can happen - anyplace - anytime, sleep can be fleeting and rare, isolation is not uncommon, especially when group-activies heighten sensory issues, therapy is OUTRAGEOUSLY expensive, security is a 24/7 concern with children who have NO FEAR and a tendency to wander, and limited communication abilities. Also those communication disconnects make communication terrifying when you child is sick and crying and you have NO IDEA what is wrong and they can't tell you. And then there is the social stuff,...not your child's,...but the world at large filled with Neuotypical folk,...who totally don't know how to respond, or deal, or empathize with a child on the spectrum.

Please,...doesn't lack of compassion count as a mental defect?

Fortunately we've had few and far between instances with lousy attitude individuals. I.I. usually beams a smile a them, anyway, and I breathe a prayer for them,...they honestly need help, more than my son.

Truly Autism is sooooooo individualized, is impossible for me to generalize of what Autism isn't. From one end of the spectrum to the other,...children have their own issues and needs. But I can speak for us, and our experience with Autism.

For us,...Autism ISN'T the end of the world. 

Surely the goal of every parent is to have a happy child.

Nailed it!

No one on the face of the earth can be happier than our little guy when he is happy! Talk about living in the moment,...enjoying life as if it were a gift. No perfection here, everyone has 'off' days, but I.I. takes living happily ever after to new levels.

For us,...Autism isn't status quo. 

One of the hardest "Autism" lessons we had to learn,...was to think outside the box of what is 'typical' to our understanding.

Perspective breaks are needed.

Our son is NOT typical, and it is useless to pretend otherwise. But different is NOT less, and quite often it can be much, much, MUCH more.

There was a time when we took Isaac to the zoo, and he noticed everything and anything other than the animals. That enormous elephant was a total yawn, but the bamboo fence enclosure,...WOW,..was that cool.

And you know what? The bamboo fence was actually kinda cool, so intricately woven, and yet I had never noticed, but Isaac did.

Then we had to ask ourselves. Was Isaac having fun at the zoo? Yes, yes he was, his own way. Wasn't going to the zoo,...all about sharing an experience? Yes, yes it was. Did the experience HAVE to look, like we thought it should? Ah, maybe not, laws were broken,...and if Isaac didn't see the animals, the animals had a chance to see him, and were grateful for one kid not tapping the glass.

Now Isaac does notice the animals, and he escorts us around the zoo with his trusty map, Tour-Guide Isaac mode.

The second thing we've learned about Autism, isn't static.

Development occurs, it's own pace.

In other words, it better for us to be DELIGHTED with what Isaac can now do, than be DISAPPOINTED over what he can't yet do.

Love, love, love the word,...yet.

Never give up. Never surrender.

Last night, my son played Duck, Duck, Goose at the Miracle League baseball game. When he wasn't pitching that is, but that's other post. The point is,...there was a time when we thought we'd NEVER see Isaac appropriately participating in such a group activity.

Fist-bump City!

Which ties into the next aspect.

For us, Autism isn't boring. 

Okay there are a lot of ways you can look at this side of Autism. It sounds kinda daring to say, "Autism is fun." -- because there are very serious aspects of Autism that frankly aren't fun, and one cannot downplay them. But for the Autism we experience,...EVERY SINGLE DAY,'s fun.

Our son is utterly adorable.

Fun is his main goal in life,...finding it, and sharing it.

What a joy and blessing Isaac has been to our lives. We laugh a lot, and marvel, even more. Our little guy is super bright, super clever, and super funny with spot on comedic timing.

Blessed,...we are blessed.

For us, Autism isn't debilitating. 

Or rather,...Isaac is totally not lessened by his Autism diagnosis. In fact the ONLY person on the face of the earth not concerned with his Autism diagnoses, Isaac.

"I am Isaac," says Isaac,...totally in control, totally self-aware, totally cool.

If anyone has a problem with Isaac's condition, then in our son's eyes,...they truly have a problem, and it is theirs,...not his.

Our little guy,...just doesn't have time,...for hang-ups. There is too much to do, too much to explore, too much to learn, and waaaaaaay too much fun to be had.

"What's next?" says Isaac,...always on the search for another adventure.

For us,'s Autism.

One of the best analogies to equate Autism with a typical Childhood Development would be to say: Autism is a Silly Straw, know those plastic straws that twist and turns in loops and loops.

Typical childhood, a straight straw, know what it is, how it works, and it is completely straight forward, mysteries,...soda is slurped straight up.

But Autism,'s a silly straw,...what in the world is it, what do you do with it, where in the world is it going??? It takes more effort to slurp with a silly straw,...its not immediately obvious what its function is, can be VERY conspicuous. Can't miss a silly straw among straight straws. Usually silly straws are very unique, our children on the spectrum. Also silly straws generally cost much, much more than a same-o straight straw. Silly straws are considered,...special. Well, they are,...something unique and fun,...and one of a kind.

What's most important to note in this analogy, that the child is sipping soda. One gets it straight up,...the other has loops and twists and turns,...but in the end,'s the same soda,...just a different journey,...getting from A to Z.

Our journey is continuing,...twist and turns and loopy loops, day by day, we learn how to help our non-typically developing son, cope with a world that doesn't always 'get' him.

But then, Isaac's not concerned, perhaps,...we shouldn't be either.

The gift of Autism is that it breaks down life into its simplest components. 

I love you.
You love me.
And what else is really important in the world? 

As people of faith,...we have faith that God doesn't make mistakes. 

Clearly our world NEEDS more joy filled individuals, who love others unconditionally.

Our son has Autism,...and it's okay.

We celebrate the achievements.
Learn from the challenges.
And look to the future with hope,...
because with God,..."All things are possible."

Until I post again,...may God bless and keep you!

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