April 2 is the infamous “Light it Up Blue” day for Autism Awareness.However, frankly as a mom, wife, and aunt to Autistics, I utterly reject the campaign run by Autism Speaks and Autism Awareness Day. I can’t STAND that organization. There are many reasons such as it is actively involved in EUGENICS against Autism in much the same way babies with Downs Syndrome are being aborted.
(For a great article about it, click here.)
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and I am in NO WAY giving medical advice. Consult a physician yada yada
I remember when my son Sam first heard those Autism Speaks commercials. He hated them. They make it sound like kids with Autism are “less than.”
I’ll never forget when I went to a networking event to fundraise for an Autism organization. I was horrified to hear such terms as “Stomp out Autism.” Had these people ever even MET an Autistic person?
Stop, Just stop. Autism is not a disease. I can’t STAND the term Autism Spectrum DISORDER. As if there was something wrong with my husband, son, and niece. Yes, it’s stressful. I get it. We live with it day by day. Sam’s younger years were especially tough. I can’t even talk about it because it would be embarrassing to him. There absolutely needs to be big breakthroughs to help those with the challenge of Autism, especially on the severe end of the Spectrum. Vaccines may have something to do with it. I don’t know. I know mothers whose children have vaccine injuries and it’s heartbreaking. I am NOT for forced vaccinations. We had a spread out vaccination schedule ourselves and I REFUSE to let my son get the HPV vaccine.
I think, though, that Aspergers (what they now call High Functioning Autism) is probably genetic. My husband and son have a lot of the same tendencies.
But Autistic people are brilliant, amazing souls. There’s a saying: “If you met one person with Autism, you met one person with Autism.” So they don’t fit into the “normal” world. Who the freaking cares? Maybe some Autistic traits make “Neuro Typicals” uncomfortable. Get over it! Can you tell I feel strongly about this?
Again, for those experiencing more severe forms, yes, solutions are needed. But way beyond Applied Behavior Analysis, of treating a child like they would a puppy getting training.
I am a big believer in alternative treatments. I’ve had success with several methods including chiropractic care, metronome therapy, listening therapy, and more. Getting to the root of the problem is essential. Finding a good functional doctor will go a long ways to help and addressing medical needs such as nutrition and sleep disorders is key.
So, having said all that, Autism Awareness is not needed now so much as Autism Acceptance. Yes, back in the early 2000s, awareness was needed for sure. I had NO idea about it. I was shocked one day when a friend of mine asked me if my husband had Autism. When he was growing up, Aspergers was unheard of and Autism was not usually diagnosed. I seriously thought that Autism was as depicted in the movie Rain Man. It was never discussed in my husband’s family.
So what to do? How can you find acceptance and handle the challenges that Autism brings? Here’s a few suggestions from my experience with Autistic family members over the last 24 years:
1) Communicate how THEY communicate. So what if my husband can’t remember more than 3 things on a list for the store? Frankly, neither can I! I text or write him a list and it has to be specific. Yeah, it takes me a little more brain power. Ultimately, I do the major shopping and he just does small shopping trips. That works out fine for us.
2) Be creative about socialization. So one of the hardest parts of Autism is the difficulty in making friends and having conversations. Sam is selectively mute. Meaning there are certain people and certain situations he will not talk. He used to be far worse. Now he has conversations all the time. Family members have noticed a huge difference. What helped him? For starters, I slowly backed off on situations like ordering from a coffee bar or ordering at a restaurant. And mostly, I created social opportunities for him.
I’m not talking about social therapy. I created a group that consists of Autistic kids and Neuro Typicals around a common interest. In our case it happened to be LARPing. Acting out characters enabled the children to express themselves creatively. Running this group has made all the difference in the world for my son and many other kids. (Interested in an AMAZING opportunity if you live in or near Colorado Springs? We’re having a LARPing Summer Camp that is PERFECT for those on the Spectrum! Find out more by clicking here.)
So what if they don’t like team sports? That’s another reason we created our LARPing club. We completely embrace nerdiness. Why not? Why be like everyone else? Stand out! I wish I had realized that when I was a teen. It would have saved me A LOT of heartache!
3) Capitalize on their focused interests. This requires listening. When I realized that my son was into medieval video games and loved Lord of the Rings like I do, that’s when I came up with the idea of LARPing. He also loves shooting so we have done some training in the past and will do so in the future. I’ve used Minecraft and other computer programs for his school projects. I’ve done mostly Unit Studies in our homeschool that feature hands-on activities that draw his interests. I DO NOT do hardly any worksheets. Very little. He loves to DRIVE so getting his license is a huge motivator for him. He also loves camping so we bought a camper last year which is bringing us closer to each other as a family and he has enjoyed researching and helping with getting everything ready for our trips.
Autism Awareness products that will make a difference!
4) Find out what their strengths and weaknesses are. Realizing that Sam has short term memory problems, is strongest in audio processing but weakest in visual processing has helped me make better decisions about his schooling. Knowing his learning style has helped tremendously. Getting him evaluated was key in knowing how best to help him. Learning techniques to help with transitioning was crucial. Realizing that exercise is a vital component of his physical and brain health helped me to change our schedules. That means that he listens to a lot of audio books and watches videos. We do CTC Math which is highly audio focused. When he was younger we did a lot of hands-on math with manipulatives. We even used manipulatives for sentence writing. Thinking outside of the box is key. As a matter of fact, just THROW AWAY the box!
5) Make sure they’re out of “Defense Mode.” My favorite resource when it comes to Autism and Aspergers is Aspergers.com. Danny Raede, the founder and a young man who is Aspergers, describes what he calls Defense Mode and teaches parents how to help their children out of it. He has many other trainings that are extremely helpful, and he started a Facebook support group that is a lifeline to both parents and adults who have Aspergers.
What does this entail? LISTENING! We adults are great at demanding respect from our kids, but doesn’t respect work BOTH ways? What if you ENTERED their world? What if you ACTIVELY understood what they’re saying instead of getting defensive and taking what they’re saying as a sign that you have failed as a parent?
What’s one thing you can do? Play video games with them! I’ve been playing Skyrum which is an eye-opener for me. It feels SATISFYING to complete a quest, like I have accomplished something. Letting go and moving on to another activity is difficult. I get that. And, of course, boy does my son and my niece get a laugh out of me trying to play! They think it’s hilarious! They also respect the fact that I have improved with practice. (A warning: Video games MIGHT cause seizures so be careful especially if there’s a history of Epilepsy).
Okay, so that’s my unexpected soap box about Autism Awareness. I guess this day brings it out in me. So I have a feeling you already KNOW about Autism. I suggest working on ACCEPTANCE. Do you see a mother stressed out dealing with a child who is having a meltdown? Don’t condemn! Empathize and offer to help! Is your child spending all her time in her room and refusing to come out of her own inner world? Learn about and practice the methods of getting her out of Defense Mode. Are you Autistic yourself? There’s nothing wrong with you! Every single person on this planet has challenges, flaws, and weaknesses. Just grow as a human being and you will be great, I promise!