living with autism
People on the autism spectrum have a unique view of the world.
Symptoms of ASD can vary wildly.
You'll understand like never before.
People with autism are not all violent, unthinking, unfeeling or uncaring, incapable of progress or love. When supported in a loving environment and by people who believe in them and their potential locked within, most of the kids can go on to be very successful and lead fulfilling lives with loving relationships.
For parents of children with special needs top that with a tenfold of anticipated stress and anxiety that accompanies the thought of maintaining a manageable environment while "doing Disney." Our main goal was to make this trip as easy and enjoyable as possible. Thinking through the many catalysts that could trigger a breakdown and the tools that we could use to manage them, here's how to take away the cringe-worthy worry, survive Disney with special needs, and keeping everyone smiling.
As a mentor for teens with autism and their families, I am struck with the level of trust, humility and indomitable spirit that I see in these families weekly on their paths to rising above others limitations of them. I would like to share one story with you from one of my clients and his mom's perspective.
Ah, that first visit to Santa. Remember how your little one cried and was scared, clinging to you? But you knew that this was temporary. Next year, he/she would be fine with the Santa visit, a rite of passage for most North American children today. But what if your child is not like all the other children?
By keeping our kids back from activities, we don't only do them harm by not exposing them to different experiences, we also deprive ourselves and the rest of our family from good, old-fashioned family fun. I used to be one of those overprotective parents when it came to my special needs son. Not anymore. I have to say that our adventures as a family have gotten better for the most part.
Autism has a bad rap with families and marriages. Pulling them apart. The stress, the constant worrying, the lack of time with your spouse and other children. The focus becomes your affected child and there is no time for you and forget about your partner. I thought my marriage was strong. It wasn't strong enough.
The problem is that an ASD is a permanent neurological disorder; it doesn't go away, but rather confirms itself over time. As parents of children with special needs, we each have to find our path. Over time, we all find our way. For me this was, and continues to be, a lesson in acceptance and redefining my values.
Autism. That one word, uttered by a white-coated doctor during the spring of 2007, was all it took to turn my life upside down. The doctor told me he was unlikely to develop further or finish high school. But I decided I was I was not going to let the words of some doctor limit my son's potential.
Alex is only 17 but he understands some things better than I do as an adult. So I tell myself that everything is still possible, that we need to continue to dream, that nothing is lost. I look at Alex and I am filled with hope.
Parents of special needs children will often tell you that we worry about the future of our children when we are no longer here to protect them. I am no exception. My son is 15 years old and he is autistic. I worry every day for his future.
There are the horrific stories of parents who have harmed their autistic children for reasons beyond my comprehension. We as a society must learn to respect and accept differences. There is no dignity in dehumanizing autistic people by stigmatization and inaccurate assumptions.
There is no question in my mind that parent training has made me a better parent. While there is a difference between the theory and practice of ABA therapy and while there is a difference between being a parent and being a therapist, the knowledge gained from the parent training offered by our early intervention team has been invaluable.
The assumptions of others have always been and continue to be to this day, our worst enemy, especially for my son. Assumptions are always the prelude to judgments; judgments that are always made without knowing his story, his achievements and more importantly, his thoughts.
Marie Josée explains that there is a beautiful innocence in ASD. A person with autism will never try to manipulate a situation to make themselves look better. They are without malice, and they don't know how to pretend. I say what I need to and I don't mince words! My partner can attest to this. He knows I'm different, that I like to talk about stuff that is real, and he accepts me as I am.
While watching the Sochi Olympics this past February I was blown away by the prowess of these young athletes defying the laws of gravity, and surprising me at every turn. Then one night I thought to myself that actually, our lives as parents with autistic children are kind of the same. Except we don't win a medal at the end.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and April is World Autism Awareness month. Unfortunately, it's no longer uncommon for most of us to know families struggling just to keep up with the day-to-day tasks required of them because they have a child with autism. Here's how you -- as a family member, friend, neighbour or even just as a friendly acquaintance or concerned citizen -- can help families affected by autism.
Julian Hung's son was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder at the age of two and a half. His son has since had three years of applied behaviour analysis (ABA) therapy and has made tremendous progress.