Autism Awareness Again!

Well, hello there!  I wrote a guest post  {<<–click to read} at Love Without Boundaries, which is really a blog about adoption and orphan advocacy BUT they asked if I would write about special needs.  Yes, please!  I would love for you to take a look and while you’re there,  see how you can get involved with orphan advocacy.

Here’s an Autism tidbit for you…..after all, it is Autism Awareness Month, remember? Yesterday, I wrote about our experience with Jacob.  However, not every parent of a child with Autism has the same experience.  Autism is hard. It’s a lot of work. It’s frustrating. It’s scary. It’s draining. Some children have major issues with communication, eating, socialization, etc. To the point that their families feel isolated.  I want to be respectful of my fellow mamas and daddies out there. No 2 children with Autism are the same. Remember that Autism is a spectrum disorder? You can have varying extremes of sooooo many issues.  So, while our experiences aren’t necessarily the same, the love for our children is. We all want the best for our children, right? Parenting is never quite what anyone expects.  For me, it’s far greater than I could have imagined.

If you know of a family who is struggling, reach out to them.  Send them a note. Drop off a meal. Offer to babysit for an hour or 2 so they can get out of the house. Without their kids! (but don’t be offended if they say no–sometimes, the offer is good enough)  Let that family know that you care.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13:33-36

Autism Awareness Month, Y’all!

Hey, you know someone with Autism, so it’s time to learn a little more about it! We heard “yes, it’s Autism” when our child was 5. It’s scary to hear. There are many variances within the Autism spectrum. If on the milder end of the spectrum, it’s called PDD-NOS or Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. Yep. Now you know why we use acronyms. (update: by the way, PDD-NOS is no longer a diagnosis.  just Autism.  whatev.)

Many with any degree of Autism have sensory and social issues. Like,  being super sensitive to sound, light, crowds, foods, people, etc. And not ever being overly social. (or being way too social) BUT, we’ve all worked REALLLLY hard –and are seeing great improvements, like being a lot more social now. Also, the ability to tolerate way more foods and situations than in the past is possible. It is possible to see improvements and it is possible to cope better.  Not possible to “cure.”

What has worked for us?  Lots of gentle exposure.  Key word, gentle. Do not throw your child out there with the attitude of “well, they have to learn how to function in this world!” It is OUR job as parents to help our children and guide them, lovingly. Food issues were dealt with in the same way. With age, this has gotten better and we can have more than green beans as a vegetable. Also, we have documented food allergies/intolerances.  Gut issues are common with people who have Autism, so please take it seriously.  I promise we’re not trying to be difficult by asking for a specific type of milk. Some kids cannot have corn products. We have wheat problems. It varies, just like our kids. Speech and language therapy helped, Occupational Therapy helped and a social skills class helped.  Yep. Social skills.  Reading social cues and situations is very difficult for many. Help them know how to respond.  Role play. Give them words.

My biggest wish for you? Learn about Autism. Learn how it affects those with the diagnosis. Don’t be scared to ask questions. (ask me if you want an answer!  you know I love to talk, so ask away!) Believe me, people with Autism know they are different.  And no 2 people with Autism are alike. It affects everyone differently, hence the “spectrum”.  They can’t help that certain things are very overwhelming to them, even though you think it shouldn’t be.  You know what? When you hug me and I don’t know you, it makes my skin crawl.  Smelling meat frying makes me nauseated.  We are all so similar in our uniqueness. Just take my word for it……it’s not a discipline issue.  Of course, above all else, kids are kids, so they act like kids. A little girl or a little boy with Autism. A little girl or little boy who is funny, smart, a little brother or sister.

One more thing…..when people say, “I don’t think I could handle having a child with a disability. Or Autism. Or special needs. Or _____ -you fill in the blank. God knew you could handle this.” Or, my least favorite, “God gives special children to special moms.” It’s really not a compliment.  For one, of course you could handle it. You can handle anything you want to handle. You were created that way. Don’t underestimate yourself. Secondly, it’s kinda like you’re saying you’re glad it’s my child and not yours. But I get it….I’m glad God gave me my child, too! I’m no more special than any other Mama.  I’ve just chosen to embrace my life that I’ve been given. You can, too.

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Spend a few minutes reading about Autism Spectrum Disorders today…..do it for me! Really, do it for yourself.  After all, it is World Autism Awareness Day! Blue is the official color!

Autism Speaks has info about adult services, community connections and health and wellness tips.

TACA has lots of good info about treatments, including diet suggestions and signs/symptoms of Autism.

Your state should have information, too.  Check the department of education if your child is age 3 or older.

FYI, many people with Autism do not want to be FIXED. They embrace their uniqueness and want to be accepted, just like you and I want to be accepted for who we are.

Show a little grace to those mamas and daddies  just hearing the words “your child has Autism.” It’s a blow.  Learn with them and show them some love. They’ll need it! We all do.

 

{linked with Holley’s blog today because advocating for all children IS my dream!}

Dear Autism

You made me cry. You consumed my thoughts.  You made me learn about therapies, supplements, diets, meltdowns. You changed my plans. You slowed me down.

You make me look at others differently.  You make me more compassionate. You make me learn. You changed my family. You are a part of my son that is crazy good and crazy bad.  You spark debates.  You make people angry.  You make people change. You make me laugh. You make me stronger.

You are a part of him.

You do not define him.

You are not him.