The Autism Spectrum and our Son’s Place on it.
If you are like me, you thought that Autism was Autism. You never heard of the term “Autism Spectrum.”
I thought that all Autism looked alike. I had a vision of the movie Rainman in my head.
When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I did a lot of research. I discovered that this condition was on the Autism Spectrum. Further research revealed that there are many forms of Autism on the Spectrum. Every case is not the same; it is not clearly visible in every case, merely by glancing upon the child.
Several conditions fall into the Autism Spectrum category that is known as Pervasive Developmental Disorder. These conditions are: classic Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS), Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Rett Syndrome. Usually, only the first three are considered to be a part of the Autism Spectrum.
A person may be recognized as being Autistic because of characteristics such as delays in speech or motor function, showing little or no interest in interacting with others, repetitive behaviors (such as pacing, lining things up in rows, spinning, or hand flapping), or an unusual degree of interest or focus on a specific subject (such as animals, cars, or anything else that grabs their attention).
Because children may present all or only a few of these characteristics, and because they may be worse for some than they are for others, the term Autism Spectrum Disorder may be used.
In Cameron’s case, he showed some symptoms early. At the age of 8 months, he stopped eating all of the baby foods that he used to eat. If I tried to force him to eat, he would gag and vomit. He stopped drinking the juices that he used to love. He did not crawl at 6 months, as my other children did; he waited ’til he was 9 months old to crawl. He walked at the normal time, which is usually around 11 or 12 months.
When Cameron learned to speak, he did not speak his own words. He spoke what he had memorized from television. He would repeat what he had heard, verbatim. He usually inserted the sentences into the correct part of the conversation, but he had no words of his own.
When he was two years old, I started to notice that he was pacing. He would pace the same path through my kitchen, several times a week. The thought crossed my mind that it was a sign of Autism, but I dismissed that idea as unlikely and unacceptable.
In my mind, he was perfect. To suggest that he was anything less was beyond horrible.
Between age two and age four, I noticed that he had no interest in interacting with any kids other than his own siblings. I attributed this to the fact that he was used to them, but rarely spent time with kids his own age.
He also became a daredevil at the age of two. He would jump off of things like toys chests, the bed, or the step into our kitchen, do a little roll, and miss hitting anything at all. When he first started doing this, I became concerned and would stop him, for fear that he would hurt himself. I soon came to realize that somehow, he knew what he was doing and was not going to get hurt. I then put a rule into place that he could jump off of some things (such as the little step), but not others (such as the bed). When I was better informed, I realized that his daredevil behavior was a sign that he was understimulated. He did these things to stimulate his senses.
Between age four and five, I started really pushing to get him to write his own name. Up until that time, he always held the writing utensil in a fisted grip. Try as I might, I could not get him to do the tripod grip and write his name with any legibility.
He was obviously intelligent. He knew his shapes, colors, his whole name, address, phone number, parents’ names, and a whole list of other information. He could tell me animal facts by the age of two, but it was all memorized material.
Afraid that he would not be ready in time for Kindergarten, I signed him up for Pre-K. While he was there, they noticed that he did not play with the other children; he played on the opposite side of the room, by himself. He was extremely sensitive to loud or sharp noises, and he did not like to get dirty or touch any of the media (paint, glue, etc.) that they were using.
This was the first time anyone had ever suspected that he had a developmental delay. The meeting that followed was the beginning of a whole new era for our family.