At age eight, my son had been diagnosed with ADHD. Five years ago, when he was eleven, we were at our monthly meeting with his psychiatrist and I felt like we were still missing something. I began to give her examples from every day life. She then asked if he had ever been tested for a Pervasive Disorder. When she said the word Autism, my son immediately said; "I'm not Autistic! I look people in the eye, I like hugs, and I talk to people!" Thus began the testing and an official diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning Autism. Since my son was diagnosed, they have changed the parameters of Autism to reflect that it is a Spectrum Disorder, which is extremely accurate because no child exhibits the same strengths and differences in the same manner.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder from the National Center for Learning Disabilities
Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by difficulties with social interaction, repetitive behavior, and sometimes speech and nonverbal communication. According to the CDC, 1% of the population has a diagnosis of Autism. In the US, 1 out of every 68 births will have a diagnosis of Autism. (CDC)
Learn the Signs of Autism Video from AutismSpeaks
As I mentioned earlier, each individual with a diagnosis of Autism is effected differently. I know for us, each day can be different as well. Routine is very important as people on the Autism Spectrum do not adjust well to change. My son is also one for rules and he will follow them implicitly as he takes everything literally. My son has the most difficulty with social interaction. Once he knows you, he makes excellent eye contact. He has difficulty with the give and take of conversations. He will tell you everything he knows about topics he deems important. He can also have difficulty reading body language and facial expressions. With Speech Therapy and practice of these Social Skills, he is making excellent progress. He rarely has any repetitive behaviors. His behaviors only show when he is extremely anxious or upset. Then, you might notice him snapping his fingers repeatedly or hear him clearing his voice often (verbal tic). He does have his favorite topics: he can tell you every single detail of information about all things of interest to him. He finds comfort in his video games. He says they stretch his mind but I know they don't require social interaction. It's a "safe place" to be.
Inside the Spectrum of Autism
If you are a parent or loved one of a child with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum, I want you to know you aren't alone, dear one. I encourage you to look around your community for support groups. Talk with other parents. I have several friends who have children on the Autism Spectrum and it is comforting when you can speak with one of your friends and they just get what you are saying. There are numerous websites and blogs that offer insight as well. I have included helpful links in this post to sites that will provide useful information. Furthermore, I encourage you to focus upon your child's strengths. Look at what your child can do. Celebrate the achievements they make no matter how big or small. Finally, never give up. Always keep persevering, dear one.
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