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Saturday, July 9, 2011

Spectrums Within Spectrums.

Harri would be considered less severely impacted by his ASD than most other children with Autism. He is verbal, social, physically active and has a fast learning rate. When he is with other kids on the spectrum it can be difficult to identify his disabilities in contrast. However when you put him in a group with his typically developing peers the signs of difference are as obvious as the nose on his face. At least to me, and any aware observer.

So if we look at the wide variation of ASD disability, Harri would be considered at the lesser end. But I think there are spectrums within the spectrum. And within those individual traits of Autism I see Harri exhibiting some extreme behaviours. For example, I am yet to meet another child whose echolalia is as strong. I am sure he uses this verbal repetition to teach himself language so it is of no great concern to me presently. I do however have some anxiety over how he will be perceived by other children once he starts kindergarten next year. He doesn't just echo words, but also copies sounds such as yelling and crying.  I cant tell you how many times he has had me cringing in supermarkets because he is imitating some kid a couple of aisles over who is crying. Loudly. It's quite clear he is copying because he nails the pattern and intonation of the cry. He has also delighted shoppers with his repetition of staff announcements over the speaker system. We were in KMart not too long ago, when one of these announcements asked for "service assistance to checkout one".  Harri immediately launches into his parody, repeating "service assistance to checkout one", "service assistance to checkout one". A nearby shopper overheard him and after laughing commented that it was the cutest thing she had ever heard. I'm not sure children will be so forgiving when they think he is teasing them. His therapists assure me that as his language grows the echolalia should fade out. Lets hope so.

Another extreme is his need for stimulation. Constant stimulation. He cannot sit to watch a program on television because, I assume, it means sitting still. He can watch for a few minutes now, when the noise or character grabs his attention, but forget the kid who could sit all day watching repeats of Thomas or Toy Story. When he was a baby this need for stimulation meant continual rocking and swinging and carrying. Now he is a toddler it manifests as the need for motion via play, destroying things, climbing, eating, and whinging for attention. He is only still in the car, which he happily gets into because it means we are going somewhere, which means more stimulation. Don't get me wrong. I am grateful he has become so easily transportable in terms of shopping or long travel. Though forget sitting in restaurants or cafes. (He doesn't sleep well either). I put this behaviour down to some kind of neurological busyness. I think he finds it incredibly difficult to slow down or focus his mind. Some days I wish he would quietly line up toys all day in place of his relentless movement. I know this need for stimulation is going to be a struggle once he is expected to sit in a classroom and focus on instructions and attend to tasks. It's probably my biggest current source of concern.

So although Harri is at the less impacted end of the Autism spectrum, some of the traits his ASD predispose him to are profound in their impact. This is what I mean by spectrums within spectrums. So many conversations about how ASD affects our kids focus on the helicopter or macro view of how severely impacted they are generally. So it's interesting to me to watch my son who appears 'high functioning' be so deeply affected by the Autism behaviours that he does have. How and if these issues resolve themselves over time we will see. One thing I am starting to see clearly is that when our ASD kids are very young it is easy to in some ways to camouflage their quirks, but as they move into school age their differences become magnified. That goes for all our kids no matter where they live on the spectrum.


  1. Dear Sharon,
    I just wanted to write and tell you that I really enjoy reading your blog. I have learned so much from it and I often check out all your other favourite blog links. My little grandson reminds me of your gorgeous Harri.

  2. Thankyou so much for that feedback. It's a cathartic process for me writing here, but it means so much to know that others benefit too. I am flattered and humbled by your support nan2two.
    Have you taken time to check out the blogs on my blog list? There's some amazingly talented ASD bloggers out there.