Embracing Autism: The Story of a Boy Through the Years

Syndicated

Once upon a time...

...into the world, a bouncing, baby boy arrived. He was a chunk of cute at 9 lbs., 12 oz. His Apgar scores were perfect. He was the perfect picture of a healthy baby.

And then...

...then the developmental milestones began to lag. We hoped day by day that our bouncing baby boy would bounce up on his knees and learn to crawl, but it was not to be. Instead, he drug his little body along the carpet by one elbow. It was a unique method of movement, but not out of the range of normal according to our Parents As Teachers educator.

We waited anxiously to play pat-a-cake and interactive games but The Boy was not interested. That was not quite out of the range of normal, according to the pediatrician.

Our precious boy could eat! Oh, could he eat. He could put away some Gerber. In fact, I've never seen so many Gerber baby food jars. I don't think we went through that many baby food jars with all of our other four kids combined. He just would not transition to table food. That should have been a red flag, but it was not really out of the range of normal.

He was a regular little Houdini. There was not a child-proofing device created that he couldn't untangle before your eyes faster than you could get it installed.

We had reached a point where other little ones were learning to talk, but not The Boy. He grunted. He pointed. He uttered two-word chunks of sound like "too-too nain" for choo-choo train. But talk, he did not. This, was a little outside the range of normal. At age three, The Boy entered a preschool for children with special needs and we worked with the school district to develop what would be an ongoing and constantly evolving IEP. The first support for the IEP was speech and language.

Embracing Autism

In kindergarten, The Boy was sure he was a Super Boy. He had good logic for this. Super Boys, you see, were going to come to the earth when all of the people became extinct. The Boy had accidentally arrived early. The people would become extinct just as the dinosaurs had before them and then all of the other Super Boys would join him and he wouldn't be alone. The Boy's teachers did not feel this was at all within the range of normal. Looking back, what The Boy was trying to tell us in his own way, was that he didn't fit in here with all of these neurotypical humans. He knew that he was different.

One teacher told us The Boy was retarded and recommended the school district administer an IQ test and evaluate him for special services. He stunned the person who administered the exam and she reported that he likely had a genius-level IQ, if only he'd been willing to cooperate with the test. She had asked him to spell his name, which he did. An hour later she asked him to recite the alphabet, which he did, minus all of the letters in his name. When she inquired about the missing letters he replied, "I already told you the other letters in my name." The poor woman couldn't quite put her finger on it, but she assured us this child was "different," but not retarded. Well...we knew that all along.

Second grade rolled around and The Boy could talk just like any other second grader, but he had struggled to learn to read so the IEP evolved from supports for speech and language to supports for reading. Less than a year later he was reading well beyond grade level.

By fourth grade his state-wide math scores were phenomenal and his reading scores were pretty impressive too, but he had not picked up many of the typical skills that boys his age had long-since mastered. He was a walking encyclopedia of dinosaur facts, but he didn't ride a bike or tie his own shoes. He couldn't stand to get wet and would often stuff toilet paper under his clothing if he got a drop of water on himself.

Life with The Boy was different.

It was about this time that a psychiatrist put a name on different. The Boy, he said, had Asperger's Syndrome. It fit and we were excited. We finally had a definition of different. There was an explanation for being just at the edge of within the normal range. And, it explained why The Boy felt like he was on the wrong planet. It is a feeling shared by many who are on the Autism spectrum.

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