In the spirit of Autism Awareness Month, I’m sharing a little bit about what goes on with my kindergartener, who has PDD-NOS, which is on the autism spectrum. Experiences with autism vary so widely- our experience is not meant to show you what autism is like as a whole. But if you don’t have any experience with it, how will you learn what it could be like if no one shares? I encourage you to read blogs from other special needs parents to get a fuller picture, but I hope that by sharing this part of our life, it can help bring more understanding.
Autism can show itself in different ways in different children. I’m going to share some of the ways that it affects my son. Not every child on the spectrum will have these same things affect them and some will have much more going on. But maybe you will be out somewhere and see a child who has some of these characteristics and you’ll have a better understanding of it- so it’s my hope to spread some awareness that leads to compassion.
Playing in his own world.
My Little Bear prefers to play on his own. And is usually pretty unaware of others around him. He’s perfectly content to be off on his own. He does like to be near others, but is okay with not playing with them. When he does play with others, he doesn’t always get the typical social cues and understand others’ emotions, though he’s very compassionate to someone who is upset. But usually, that’s my child- off doing his own thing.
It’s kind of funny that we started calling him Little Bear from a very young age because these days what we say(or at least think) is “don’t poke the bear.” He can be so unaware of those around him that he even ignores teasing for quite a while. But if someone persistently “pokes” at him, things can turn ugly. But it takes someone really invading his space and repeatedly doing something to him or he just doesn’t notice.
Poor eye contact
With my little dude, he will look you in the face or in the eyes some, but his eyes will usually drift off- he prefers not to look someone right in the eye. He can still hear you and can still respond, but looking you right in the eye for long periods of time is most likely not going to happen.
Last summer at the pool, one of the lifeguards was talking to him about jumping into the pool and she started to get frustrated and yelled at him that he had to look at her, and then told me that he had to look at her or she wouldn’t know he was listening. Thankfully, another lifeguard who knew our family well yanked that lifeguard back in her chair and told her she would take care of it. She talked to my son and explained that he had to jump facing forward instead of spinning in the air, but didn’t make an issue of it that he was merely looking in her general direction but not right at her.
This means either an increased or decreased awareness of senses like smell, sound, or even pain. For my own guy, loud noises are hard for him. He’ll remove himself if it gets too loud or put his hands over his ears to try to block it out. And if there is too much noise, it will be very hard to get his attention because he’ll try to block everything out. He also notices smells and will complain that various things “stink” when the rest of us might not notice an odor at all or only notice it faintly.
But then he has a decreased awareness of pain. If he says something hurts, you better believe it HURTS because he won’t even notice things that would have other kids in tears. He’s soothed by deep pressure.
Stuck on one thing
My Bear can get stuck on a certain activity or toy and it’s really hard to tear him away from it. It’s not as simple as just telling him to stop. Or to share. If it’s something he’s attached to(and my son’s toy or activity can change), asking him to share that item is about the equivalent of how I’d feel if someone I don’t know asked to borrow my wedding rings. It’s personal and I wouldn’t understand why someone would want something so clearly mine and so much a part of me. This doesn’t extend to items he’s not attached to and he’ll share those more easily than even his brothers would.
Being a picky eater, having difficulty with transitions, not understanding social cues, language delays, some tantrums for no apparent reason: these are some of the other issues he faces. None of it is as simple as simply telling him to “get over it” which is what I could do with some of this if it were my other kids going through this. Trust me, I’ve tried. But it’s definitely not as easy as that.
It’s hard to put it into simple words. Because on their own, each of these things doesn’t sound like all that big of a deal and could be things that any parent faces. It’s just different when it’s all of it and more combined. But I’m still trying.
Because maybe you’ll come across another little boy or girl who shows some of these characteristics and you’ll get it, you’ll understand that there isn’t an easy way to change these behaviors. And you’ll have compassion. I know that being a special needs mom has taught me to stop before I judge, to give the benefit of the doubt and to realize that so many of us are just doing the best that we can. Thanks for reading. xo
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