Monday, June 8, 2015

Let's Talk About Autism a bit


We hear it talked about quite a bit these days.  There's quite a bit of Autism awareness going around which is a good thing.  It is an often misunderstood disorder.  No one knows for sure what causes it.  Originally, "refrigerator mothers" were supposed to be the cause.  Soon that was ruled out.  Recently, there was a big debate over whether or not vaccinations caused Autism.  It seems that the researcher responsible for that theory cooked his research a bit so they are probably not the cause either.  The current theory is there is a genetic predisposition which is triggered by something environmental.  So, really, we are back at square one and don't know what causes it at all.

Autism is a "spectrum disorder" which means that it ranges in severity.  There used to be other disorders related to Autism like Asperger's and PDD NOS but the definitions recently changed to bring both of the disorders I mentioned under the Autism umbrella.

So, why am I talking about this?

Two reasons.

Reason #1 and Reason #2
Both my daughters have Autism.

But I love them anyway.

We knew something wasn't right when our oldest daughter wasn't talking by age 2.  In fact, she wasn't responding to anything.  So, we had her tested and went through a hearing test and she qualified for speech therapy.  At age three, she entered preschool at the local school and at the time, she was completely nonverbal.  She had her full evaluation prior to kindergarten this spring and was diagnosed with Autism.  Her speech score was 68 which is still "severely impaired" but still a major improvement from 0.

She loves dresses and has a bit of an obsession with princesses.  Right now we're big into Cinderella (Sih-der-rah-rah)

This is Gilbert.  He is her favorite cat.  He used to be "eeow" and then "cat' and then "kitty cat orange" but now he's named after the cat on Calliou.   She has three identical beanie babies but this one is the only cat for her.
The funny thing about having one child with a developmental delay is that you tend to identify a delay in the second child faster.  Our younger daughter is only 14 months younger but we noticed as she neared 18 months that she had 0 words.  She also had some sensory issues so she was diagnosed with PDD NOS (which stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified which means she had some Autism signs but not all of them, however, PDD NOS has been absorbed into the Autism spectrum so we can pretty much say "she's Autistic").  She received speech therapy and occupational therapy and entered preschool at age 3 as well.

She was so happy and normal but what the camera doesn't see is the oober tantrum we had when it was time to get OFF the tractor.
Even though they are both Autistic, the Autism manifests itself differently in both.  She had definite problems with sleeping, which was extremely inconvenient when you are a full time Master's student.  She has sensory issues with her hair so washing and brushing is difficult.  Like her older sister, she also has a speech delay.

We love bubbles.  And also Pooh (he's on the couch behind her)
My husband and I made the difficult decision to try medication with our younger daughter.  The first days were so nerve wracking as we monitored her to make sure she wasn't going to have a horrible reaction.  The results have been extremely positive.  She now wants to wear clothes (she hated clothes before) and is fully potty trained after a month of the medication (she wouldn't even try to wear underwear before the meds).  She also sleeps through the night.  Her teacher reported that instead of rocking back and forth in music class, she actually started doing the actions!  We are hoping to try medication with our older daughter to see if it will also have a positive effect.
Children with Autism look completely normal on the outside.  There are no physical markers.  It is extremely embarrassing when we go out in public and they throw a tantrum.  To everyone else it looks like we have spoiled rotten brats!  But that's not the case.  They have no filter for their emotions and they don't know how to cope with disappointment.  I would like to teach them to ride a bike but they don't understand boundaries so I am afraid they would be run over.  We don't go to parks because they have run away before.  Many times, we leave them home with one of their older half-siblings so we can do our grocery shopping in peace.  Or at the very least, without the judgmental looks (although, I did have one parent who gave me a pat on the back when one of them threw a fit at Kroger - Thanks, whoever you are, that helped me not to feel like a horrible parent).

I'd love to take them to Disney World but that's out even though they'd love it (a. too expensive; b. I'm not crazy enough to even try without an army of backup; c. I'm really not sure how the younger one would react to a giant Pooh).

They have such loving, budding personalities.  Some days I wish they were normal.  They can be extremely trying. But I really don't want to change a thing.


  1. Sending you love and a gentle pat from here...Having taught such little ones, the adage, to know them is to love them is fitting....Enclosing you in prayer.

  2. What beautiful daughters you have! One of our nephews has autism so it was interesting to read this post and I know my sister-in-law would relate to what you said about "tantrums" in public. Thank you for sharing such a personal post.


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