Parents, Children, Autism: Education or Obsession?
I've been posting a lot of articles about autism lately, almost exclusively. Â Autism is a huge part of my life because of my son. Â I spend a lot of time trying to work out ways to better his position, plan his future, and prepare for the eventualities that come with a child with special needs. Â Of course, as I go through the research and study, discussions and learning theories, I begin to wonder whether or not I'm allowing autism to consume my entire life. Â Am I?This is a discussion that is primarily for my own sanity, but I thought I would share for all those parents, friends, family members, etc. that see autism in your personal world and wonder how it impacts that world. Â Every day I live with autism and the results of a son who has difficulty communicating. Â Actively, I'm trying to help him learn to communicate as best he can. Â I try to work on his writing skills, spelling, and written vocabulary, and soon I'll be trying to help him with typing and playing an instrument. Â Ultimately, I want to have a son that is well able to express himself without assistance of other people, either through an assistive application on a personal, portable device or ideally through his own speech. Â Passively, I'm accepting the situation for what it is: Â my son, whom I love very much, needs special attention. Â Regardless of what I do actively, this fact does not change. Â I could try to ignore it, but it does no good for my son. Â I could try to beat him into submission, but that does not work for autistic children, who are unable to recognize anger, frustration, or other social indicators. Â Recently, I read an article by a grandparent to an advice column, concerned that her grandchild was taking over the family. Â The article then had a nice long discussion on behavior modification and better discipline within the home, but had no advice on how to accomplish these goals for a parent with an autistic child. Â Instead it made the autistic child the villain, willfully controlling his parent's lives. Â Now, I don't know the full details of the family life the article was referring to, and I doubt either the grandparent or the advice columnist do either, and so I won't comment on their situation or their ideas of discipline. Â But it did awaken a sense of anger in me. Â If your child is autistic, your life is going to seem very different than from other parents. Â Where cousins will start talking, your child does not. Â Where other parents start to complain about their child's talking back to them, telling them no, yelling, and such, all you can do is nod and feel a little hurt that your child doesn't speak to you. Â You want to do anything you can for your child, and so you spend a lot of time doing research, helping with therapy, etc. Â You feel as though you are in a race against time, trying to get your child caught up as quickly as possible to other children for their benefit. Â You don't want them to grow up being teased, bullied, and shunned because of who they are. Â You want them to have an equal opportunity in this world.So is that obsessing over autism? Â Perhaps, but do you obsess over your children? Â Do you want them to be as educated as possible when they start school? Â Do you read to them, help them learn to write, work with their speech, and teach them useful skills? Â Of course you do, because you love your child. Â Now, just imagine that your child can't mimic what you do, and doesn't imitate. Â You have to go through the same steps hundreds of times, so that they learn the routine. Â This takes time, a lot more time than just showing them a couple of times and have them get it. Â Now, imagine your child is easily distracted by any combination of action and sound, and doesn't stay interested unless there is a combination of action and sound. Â How much more difficult would that be? Â Ask any parent of an autistic child, and they will tell you.Anyway, that is me venting. Â Next time you start to complain about how hard it is to teach your "normal" child something to a parent with an autistic child, please don't get offended when they just nod and smile. Â It's not that they don't care, it's just that they have dealt with far more than you can imagine already, and find your complaints a bit less compelling than you may have hoped.