A friend recently reminded me of her first encounter with me. We were having a parent training session on autism, about how to continue the learning process at home. The discussion diverted to autism acceptance as the key to seeing change in your child, when she remembered what I was like 5 years ago. She says I looked at her and declared, “I don’t want to hear that word (Autism), my child is “normal” and no one should say otherwise.”
Looking back, I now understand that I was more offended by the word “normal” than the word Autism. My fight from the very beginning has been for my son to be seen as equal to other children even though he has a different way of ordering his world.
My fight has been against the referencing of other children as normal and mine as not. He has 10 fingers and 10 toes, all his bits and parts work well. He has every organ and limb in place. He has a brain. His brain processes information, just not in the same way some other brains do.
World Autism awareness day and month is here. All of April is used to bring awareness to Autism. April 2nd is the globally recognized World Autism Awareness day.
I started thinking about this day and was reflecting on how my son has come a long long way in 5 short years. I have too. I would like to think that we are both not the mother and son we were back then.
In trying to figure out the autism puzzle, I have figured out so many things about myself and in seeing the quality of his life improve, I have felt re-energized to do more; not only for him but for other moms and kids with the same struggles.
So, as we mark this most important day, the World Autism Awareness day, I want to push the word normal out of the way because it still offends me and instead focus on Celebrating the difference that Autism is.
One of the characteristics of persons with autism…and I say one because they are many and different and an individual may have different combinations of the characteristics while another has a different combination, that is why it’s a spectrum; well one of the characteristics of persons with autism is repetitive behaviors or a fascination or obsession with a single topic or item. My son has a love for the yellow school bus. I know it’s a strange one because we live in Kenya and where oh where are there yellow school buses in this country? It started with his love for the song, “the wheels of the bus”…you know the one…sing with me.
“The wheels on the bus go round and round,
round and round,
round and round.
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
all through the town.”
From when he was a baby, being in the car would sooth him and so before I figured out what was triggering his meltdowns, we would get into the car and just drive. As he grew older being in a school van or in the car with me brought him happiness and then we got an iPad as a gift and my child discovered the magic land of you tube videos.
Did you know that there are more than a hundred versions to that song? I am not talking about the song being sang in a different language but the same song sang with different lyrics added, different colored buses etc. There are games based on the song and get this, you can teach the alphabet or math or science with the wheels of the bus as your focus.
The point I am laboring to make is that whatever item your child is focused on can be used as the starting point for learning. Here’s an example…
English: B is for bus, spell bus, who goes into the bus? Spell baby, mom, dad. Who drives the bus? Spell driver. What uniform does the bus driver wear? Spell unifom. What color is the bus?
Maths: How many wheels does a bus have? Count 1 to 4. How many windows? Count 1-10. If the bus loses one wheel how many remain?
Get the idea? We know that we are likely to pay attention to someone trying to have a discussion with us when the topic in question is something that we like or are deeply interested in. the same applies to your child’s learning.
One of the things I am doing at the moment is trying to figure out careers for my child. He may have a different idea when he is grown but as his parent, it is my responsibility to get him ready for the future. These are my top 3;
1. Engineer- I mean we have barely started discussing the ins and outs of how a bus runs, the machine or machines that are needed to manufacture the bus or make the bus run.
2. A bus dealership owner- people will still need safe school buses in the future and someone with a love for buses could customize some really cool ones. I think vehicle sales earn dealership owners a lot of money.
3. Auto Mechanic – I see how much money I pay my mechanic and so I therefore do not sneeze at this JD anymore. If school buses exist then someone needs to fix them when they break down.
We spend so much time as parents of children with autism agonizing about our children’s future and getting really distressed about it. We spend so much time looking across the fence at either the autistic child’s siblings or his cousins or little neighbors and wishing our child was like them, neuro-typical. As we get to April I want to urge you to try the following;