Saturday, May 30, 2009

Spectrum Saturdays

Some Autistics find looking at faces to be too stimulating. There is a lot of information that's given by the human face. And so, they just don't. They find an object that grabs their attention and they look at that instead. It used to drive me crazy, but now that I understand it, I just work with it.

It's always amazed me what my son's found fascinating. It never occurred to me that the way Reagan could play with the propeller on his toy helicopter for an hour was odd. His first friend was the same way. Of course, his friend turned out to have Autism. But I didn't connect the dots at the time. And that Ciaran would do the same sort of thing didn't phase me, since I was comparing him to his older brother. Of course, his older brother has Autism!

People have a lot of images in their mind of what an Autistic child looks like. Some people picture the movie Rain Man. Some picture some sort of savant who can't tie his shoes. But that's not what Autism looks like in my house.

As a toddler, Reagan talked later than other kids, but he was gentle, quick to smile, and gentle. If another child took his toy, he'd just go find another. Ciaran was the same. He's still learning to talk, but his face is expressive, he's interested in his environment, he's affectionate, and frequently smiling. Occassionally he has melt downs because he lacks the ability to communicate what he wants or needs. And he's unaware of safety needs. He'll run out into the street without a care because he can't understand yet, that cars might hit him.

Both Ciaran and Reagan have improved dramatically at their ability to make eye contact. But both still find it difficult if the facial expression they are looking at is upsetting to them. If I'm angry or sad, they don't like it. I wonder if they don't just feel it a bit more acutely than other children.

In some ways I'm still frustrated that Autism came in to complicate our lives. But at the same time, if having two boys with Autism means that I get these boys, I'll take it. They've made my life so much richer just for being in it. And I can't begin to explain all that they've taught me about patience and the power of parental connection.
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