"Autistics Live In Our World Their Way."

I don't know who to credit for that saying but it's pretty much on target. My son typifies that statement. I was a single parent by choice when he was born in 1989. He as a typical toddler. He was vocal and social. It wasn't until he was about four or five years old that our lives became more interesting. 

The first time his behavior was at issue was at preschool. I was called into the school coordinator's office when I went to pick him up after work. I was floored by what the coordinator told me. 

My son had actual become violent and she had two bloody fingers where the fingernails had been broken below the quick to prove it.

 During group activity that day, the teacher and aide had tried to steer my son into the activity, but he was having none of it. I don't recall exactly what the activity was but when the teacher and aide failed and my son kept withdrawing from the group, the coordinator stepped in and tried to physically steer him towards the group of other children. He resisted and became violent when physically manhandled by the administrator. Then, the coordinator tried to restrain him. That only made things worse. Her fingernails were broken in the ensuing struggle with my boy.

I had never seen any violent behavior from my son. It was just he and I at home. I had never seen him overwhelmed to the point of acting out. I had no doubt it had happened, but I did not understand why my son had reacted so badly. Needless to say, I was asked to find another preschool for him to attend. 

This was in the early 1990s. Few people knew much about autism, much less the autism spectrum. The word autism for me conjured images of a nonverbal child sitting in the corner of a room, rocking back & forth or banging his head against a wall completely oblivious to anyone or anything around them. That simply was not my son. 

He was a typical infant and toddler. He was verbal and interacted with those around him. I have hours upon hours of home video to prove it. (He was my first and only child, so no surprise there, right!)

At the time, there wasn't such a thing as "kind of" autistic, as far as I knew. There were no organizations for this sort of special needs child.  I was clueless.  So I began slogging through this adventure without much information or resources, but I did have family's support. So, it wasn't all bad. My child and I weren't alone.

After the preschool meltdown, it was obvious his behavior wasn't quite typical.  My first step to help solve the puzzle was mainstream medicine. 

So I took him to a neurologist and had an EEG done. They tranquilized my five-year-old son, hooked him up to wires and took readings of the electrical impulses in his brain. He woke up after an hour and was well rested and ready to go like any young boy would be. We were kept waiting in the waiting room for an hour after my son had awakened just to learn the results of the test. 

The longer we had to wait the more antsy my son became. By the time the neurologist came in to deliver the test results, my son was more than ready to go home. Truthfully, so was I.

 The doctor popped in the waiting room and informed me the EEG results were normal and proceeded to tell me my son suffered from ADD/HD (Attention Deficit Disorder Hyperactivity Disorder). This was his opinion after observing my son for 15 long,minutes as we spoke about the test results. 

Let's see. My son was a preschool boy who had just had a good nap. He'd already spent an hour playing with everything of interest in the waiting room. So he was climbing the walls, more than ready to go home. Seemed normal to me. He's a boy. They have a lot of energy to begin with. I thought the doctor was way off the mark. 

Besides at home my son's attention span was typical if not more focused than most boys his age. In fact, it was not unusual for him to sit by himself for hours and play with toys or games he enjoyed. He could sit quietly for long stretches while books he enjoyed were read to him. Not the hallmarks of an ADD/HD child. He would stick with a task until it was completed. Interestingly enough, he disliked being interrupted until he was done with what he was doing. I later learned this can be typical of an Asperger's child. 

After the ADD/HD pronouncement, the neurologist whipped out a prescription pad and began writing. He wanted to put my 5-year-old on some drug. "What the hell", was my thought, but I bit my tongue said no thank you. "What else can we do instead?", was my question. 

Behavior modification was the alternative answer the doctor gave. For my son, it was THE answer to a lot of the challenges he would face while growing up.  

Ironically, he was never diagnosed as autistic through high school graduation. It was a cousin of mine, Linda, who was an educator that recognized some autistic tendencies of my son and sent me information about Asperger's Syndrome.

I came to understand Asperger's meant my son was a high functioning autistic. Years later, I learned the only difference between being labeled autistic or Asperger's is the age of onset of difficulties communicating and socializing. Onset before age four or five is considered autistic after that time period, it's diagnosed as Asperger's. 

The most valuable lesson I learned the day of the EEG??? Doctors don't always have the answers, or at least the RIGHT answers. They only know what they know, and they don't know everything. So it was up to me to learn what l didn't know about my son's condition--which was a lot.

Anyway, once my eyes were opened to the fact that my son was different, I did my best to teach him to overcome his shortcomings and accentuate and build on his strengths -- Not so much different than how a parent of a typical child would go about raising their offspring. I never labeled my son autistic or Aspeger's. He was in college before those words were associated with him. By then, it didn't matter. As he grew up, I told him he was wired a little differently-- but who isn't?

This was just the start of the challenges we would face as my son grew up living in our world his way...................

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