Saturday, May 09, 2009

Spectrum Saturdays

I'm looking at the picture of this sweet little boy and thinking how it could so easily be my Ciaran. Down by the edge of the water, unaware of the danger, and perfectly happy to be alone. Reagan doesn't prefer his own company. Asperger's kids vary, but Reagan is a kid who wants to be social but doesn't always understand the rules. The body language and unspoken code of kidhood goes right over his head. Ciaran is a different story. Ciaran is perfectly happy on his own. He doesn't seek much at all, other than sensory stimulation (aka jumping on my couch).

Some people may think it's a bad thing to have a large family when you have two kids on the spectrum. After all, kids (especially Autistics) require so much time and attention, they could be short-changed in a family like ours! But, oddly, the opposite has been true.

Ciaran has two older sisters who encourage his participation in play. He has an older brother who gets down on the floor with him and wrestles. And he has a baby brother who does his best to connect with him non-verbally. The other kids make him social. Between Attachment Parenting, which has formed a deep bond between us making it easier for me to connect with him, and siblings who talk to him, play with him, and teach him about social skills, having a big family has been a huge plus for us!

Being part of a big family has been good for Reagan too. While he is a social kid (even if his social skills need work, something they teach him at school in a class for kids with Autism) he has a lot of trouble with understanding how something looks from a different perspective. Having younger siblings who aren't afraid to tell him exactly what they think, has taught him so much. He's learned how to be empathetic, understanding (even if it's challenging), helpful, and kind. And he knows that he has one place where he's safe to be himself and even thought to be "cool" because of it.

So, thankfully, while I watch my children struggle, and know that it's a long road, I do have two boys who are learning how to be with others and who are even affectionate. That's huge.


  1. Hi Anne,
    I have read your blog for quite awhile. (I sent you an idea about using a pillow embroidered with Sarah's name as a way to include her in family pictures.) I am both the mother of a child with Down Syhdrome and a special ed. professional (OT). From what I read you are doing a great job with your sons. I have to add that I am from the generation of parents that fought long and hard to have our children referred to as a child NOT reduced to a diagnosis. I am aware that calling a child with autism an "Autistic" is the in thing with many paremts of these children. I keep up with the literature as a professional and I know that some people even use the term "Auties". I have NEVER, in eighteen years, allowed anyone to reduce my son to his diagnosis by calling him a "Downs".
    I would never, as a professional, refer to your sons as "an Autistic". I would refer to each of them as a child who has Autism.
    I just thought you might like to know how this comes across to other parents in the disability world. I hope this comes across respectfully because that is the spirit in which I say it.

  2. Well, you must be doing a good job because the professionals we have worked with have always called my children by their names, and not their diagnoses. And, I have heard before that some parents feel that calling their child by their diagnosis reduces them to that diagnosis. In deference to them, when referring to someone else's child with Autism, I phrase it that way. But I don't feel that saying that my child is Autistic reduces him to that diagnosis anymore than saying that my child is artistic, musical, or any other trait. Autism is just one piece of who they are. And thus, for simplicity in posts like this I may say "my Autistic son" or my "Autistcs" vs. my NT kids.

    I respect the feelings of other parents in the special needs world (I prefer special needs to "disability"). We very much need each other for support and to get through the journey.

  3. I also noticed that the only place I used the word "Autistics" in this post was to differentiate between kids with Autism and NeuroTypical kids. I didn't actually use it in respect to my kids at all. Repeatedly, I call my children by name.

    I do call Reagan my "Aspie" from time to time. But not usually. I guess, in a very long way, I'm saying that I hear what you're getting at, and I respect your opinion. I don't necessarily agree, but I respect your opinion, and all the work you do.

  4. I think big families would be good for children with autism because I think other kids who love their autistic sibling are more therapeutic than hired professionals. My son is so good at guiding my daughter and picking up with what we are doing with her in RDI! :-)


I love comments!