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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Say My Name.

Another positive to having an ASD kid is that never again will I take for granted developmental accomplishments that come so naturally for others. If my memory serves me correctly, by age 2 kids are asking all sorts of questions about the world around them. Lots of why this or why that. It can get irritating after a while. But ASD kids don't tend to do that. (Which may be some kind of blessing but that's not where I am going with this). The Autist tends to mull things over internally but for some reason don't tend to seek the answers externally by asking. They miss out on learning a lot about the world because of this. For example, in her book, Thinking In Pictures, Temple Grandin describes her struggle to comprehend the Lords Prayer. She could make no sense of the claim God was doing art in heaven (Thou Art in Heaven) and only in the last few years (she is now about 70) has finally understood why there is a man at the end (Amen). All these years she has never thought to ask anyone. This woman is highly educated and is the worlds leading designer of livestock handling equipment, yet never thought to ask anyone these simple questions.

NT kids are programmed to watch others, to mimic and learn through play. To crawl and then walk in order to explore their environment, then turn to older people in their lives for the answers they seek in order to make meaning of this complex world. This is a natural, hard wired process. Autistic kids dont seem to have this natural tendency. Their instinct is to withdraw from the harsh world. To focus in on detail and tune out the overwhelming noise, sights, textures, faces and brightness of the world. It is a confusing and intimidating planet. This is why so many suffer anxiety disorders and severe tantrums. They are freaking out. (please take note next time you see a kid going nuts in a supermarket).

So when your ASD kid calls your name, it is like Manna. Whilst parents will delight in hearing their names called out around the NT kids 1st birthday, for those of us raising ASD children it can be a very long wait. It is only recently Harri has called me mama. I'm still not sure if it is echolalia or if he really is calling to me, but I'll take what I can get. And love it.

Similarly his ability to say hi and goodbye to people with a little wave is thrilling. And when he says excuse me, in the right context, I could just melt with pride. Such small steps, yet so far behind where they 'should' be. Through his therapy he is learning to learn. And how exhilirating it is to watch.

If Harri was just like all the other 'normal' kids out there I would take these moments for granted. I would be pleased to see him hitting his milestones, but the attention to detailed progress would not be there. And consequently nor would the joy that comes with his triumphs.

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