One day I was meandering on the internets (CAN you meander on the internets? Alas, even if you can't...I WAS). Somehow I ended up over at yeahgoodtimes.blogspot.com I tried not to judge the author, as I am a total Wordpress snob. I read and laughed and read some more. One of the most inspiring things about who we are as people is the incredibly diverse and complex states that we can hold in tandem. You can be a foul-mouthed and spiritually disciplined Christ Follower. You can be a caring and present mom who loses her shit about almost everything. You can be a giving and thoughtful person who is greedy. You can be many things, and be them all at the same time. You can live in the tension. One thing I LOVED about Jill was how she portrayed this ability. She is 100% pure snarky awesomeness and within that is a deep and unmoving love for her family and friends. It is apparent when you read her writing. So she is here at TheBrokins.com, doing us a solid. She has shed her proverbial "snarky skin" and is getting to the heart of the matter: Autism
She lives with a little one who is autistic and one who is not. She is learning to navigate the waters of life. She makes some good points to consider. Honesty. From someone living life authentically.
I admire her. I hope you will too.
Lessons in autism
I often get asked by parents who are concerned about their kids, some variation of "this is what my kid does; is it autism?" I explain that the major difference between kids on the spectrum and kids not on the spectrum isn't necessarily what they do, it's what they don't do. Kids with autism will generally lack interest in what's called "social reciprocity," which means they want to share the experience with another person (this is not always the case, but an important early red flag). They will also play with toys differently: if I were to give both of my kids a toy car, Child 1 (with autism) would hold the car and spin the wheels around and around; Child 2 (without autism) would drive it around and say "VROOOOMM!"
Today we encountered a larger scale example of the toy car, in a trip to the local science museum, where they have a gravitational well. A gravitational well is a large circular table thingy with a hole in the bottom, and to use it, you roll a coin or a ball around it which will eventually come out the bottom. It has to do with science. Don't ask me any questions about it because I have no idea. All you need to know is that it's cool and spinny:
Both of my kids spent about 10-15 minutes, separately, playing with this thing, and I was struck at how their differences in playing with it were a great example of the difference between kids on and off the spectrum.
Child 1 is 9 and has autism. He spent his time at the well rolling the ball straight down into the hole and then watching, from below, as the ball came out the bottom. Here's a really bad picture (I was across the room):
|That's him, under the table, catching the balls as they dropped out the bottom|
He spent the whole time like that; all he wanted to do was repeatedly put the ball down the hole and watch it come out the bottom. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
Child 2 is 5 and does not have autism. He spent all his time running around and around and around the table, pushing a bunch of balls around the rim at the top.
Anybody watching him might think that this was autistic behavior, since he was continually running around the table, except while he did it, he was pretending the balls were having a race and he was the announcer (we saw Cars 2 yesterday). I couldn't hear all of what he was saying, but it was things like "and number three is pulling into the lead!"
My point? All kids can be weird, and all kids can do weird, unusual things. The fact that your child is doing something weird doesn't necessarily mean he or she has autism. I've seen "typically developing" toddlers who constantly walk on their toes; I've seen typically developing preschoolers who do nothing but stack cans all day long. You may read that these behaviors are things that autistic kids do, but what's more important is to look out for "social reciprocity" in what they do. If they stack and stack, do they want you to see it? Do they want you to share in the stacking with them? Child 2 was pretending that the balls were cars; kids with autism, in general, don't pretend.
I always feel compelled to explain this things when they happen because nobody ever explained them to me when Child 1 was a toddler and I hope that my experiences can help other people through their autism journey, or, maybe, away from one.