Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Some Basic Information about Autism

I got studying autism because two of my kids are diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum.  And I made some interesting discoveries about myself on the way.  I want to take some time to tell you a bit about autism.  I'm pretty sure you'll learn something.  I know I learned a lot.

Autism is a spectrum
Most of us have heard that autism is a spectrum.  But we usually think about it in an inaccurate way.  A blog by an autistic man I saw put it ingeniously this way:
This is how I usually thought about the autism spectrum.  That it is a range that you can be high or low on.  Some people have autism real bad, and others have it not so bad.  But I was wrong.

Autism is actually more like a prism, with different aspects.  Each person who has autism has it differently.  Some may seem socially great, but they might have other issues that make them autistic.  Certainly some autistic folks are more functioning in our society than others.  Sometimes that's because the autism is particularly bad, but just as often because the autistic person was not given the opportunity to learn to function past their disability.

Autism is not understood
When I was in high school, I took a job-training program and I decided to assist a school that taught autistic kids.  When a kid was really out of control, a teacher would roughly treat the child and even hit them.  I was stunned and approached her, saying that this treatment wasn't right.  She pulled a text about teaching autistic kids off the shelf, and had me read a few paragraphs.  Sure enough, right there, in this official training manual, it mentions physically and verbally attacking the child so they could pay attention and learn.  That was not an occupation I wanted to pursue, that's for sure.

Education of autistic kids are remarkably different now, and I suspect many teachers of autistic kids in the 80s didn't use that approach.  But there are many families that don't understand that their kid is on the spectrum, that they aren't just ignoring you or that computers are the only way they can communicate.

Autism is an extreme experience of the world 
Adults now feel abused by families that had no idea how to care for their kid.  They didn't know how to deal with the screaming or what seemed like attacks.  They had no idea that their kid saw all their interactions as if they were turned up to 11, as if someone had taken the world and turned the saturation knob up to high. 

For a lot of autistic people, this is what their life is like:

(To get the full effect, put your headphones on and put it on a normal volume level for you)

So to give the autistic kid or adult more stimulation is the wrong approach.  They need a gentler approach, and space to rest and to figure out their way through the world.

Autism can't be cured, but a person can learn to function, to make their own unique way through the world.

Characteristics of  Adult Autism
A broad list of autistic characteristics is quite long, and ranges through the whole of a person's life.  In adults, some main indicators of autism might be:
-Few friendships
-Difficulty in understanding non-verbal cues
-Strong resistance to change
-Difficulty processing new sensory experiences
-Difficulty in romantic connection
-Struggles with empathy
-Repetitive behaviors
-Short attention span
-Focused preoccupations, obsessions
(taken from Udemy Blog)

I feel horrible that we weren't able to discover my two kids' diagnosis until after high school. I am glad that we homeschooled them until high school, though because they were able to function better in that setting than in school, where they both had terrible difficulties.

Genetic aspect
Another curious aspect of autism is that the gene that triggers autism is passed only through the male. This doesn't mean that a man with autistic children has autism, but it would be in his family line, somewhere.  The other curious aspect of the autism gene is that two people in the same family could have the autistic gene, but autism would look very different in even siblings that have autism.  The gene might be the same, but the way the gene reacts is remarkably different for each person.

So think of the prism spectrum illustration above.  Each autistic person might have 12 different characteristics, but the application of those characteristics, and the seriousness of each characteristic would be different for each person.  Autism may not ever be found if a person has found their place in society, and their autistic characteristics would be seen as "quirks" or the person seen as "eccentric."  

All of this is fascinating, I'm sure, to you, but it also applies to me, so I'll be talking about some things I learned about myself next time.  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Devon loved to play the recorder. In fact, he never stopped. All day, all night, he played with joy, spreading his happiness to everyone. The god Zeus, after pursuing a nymph all night, was awakened by Devon's playing a bit too early in the morning. Zeus turned Devon into a kitschy art decoration all over the world, and his flute was never heard from again.
Later in the afternoon, when Zeus woke up, he had no recollection of ever doing this.

Monday, July 11, 2016


She always enjoyed standing on the shore of the river, dusk encompassing the landscape, while she watched the fish drowning.


"I am the king! I am the king!"
"Would you please just shut up."
"Only if you let me be king!"
"Fine, fine, whatever. Just be quiet"

Life is Full of Love

Life and love find us where we look for it. 
If all we see if death and bitterness, then we'll find that. 
I'd rather see a half-truth world filled with people trying to love 
than a half-truth world filled with people who are selfish.


Today he turns twelve. His mind is full of questions:
"What is the disability I am unaware of that will cripple my life?
Who will I make miserable because I live with them?
Do I weep because I am sad, or am I sad because I weep?
Is Ronald McDonald really trying to destroy me?"
It wasn't a good day.