Thursday, November 11, 2010

Autism That Blank Stare

The numbers continue to climb. 1-166 children develop Autism each year. Why? They said it was the mercury in the vaccines. Then they could not rule out the possibility of genetically distribution. It is a guessing game. Unlike most other disorders and diseases that cause a person to become handicapped, the autistic brain is still a mystery.

Autism has varying degrees of disability. They call it a spectrum disorder, because those afflicted can be very high functioning and amazingly technical. They are so focused on one subject. This is a category that many professors fall into. They have that one specialty that they know absolutely everything about, but can they remember your birthday? Probably not, but they can tell you what happened in their field eighty years ago. This is called Asperger's Syndrome, a variation of autism. Then you have the very low functioning people on the autism spectrum, who are barely able communicate. My nephew falls into the low functioning category on the spectrum.

Many people wrongly assume that autistic people are geniuses at something. They say things like "Oh I saw Rainman, can he do that?" Then I have to go into this long story about autism, and what they are speaking of is known officially as an Autistic Savant, and no, he can't count cards so he is not coming to Vegas with you.

In his Autistic world, he just wants to stay home and drive his mommy crazy. He likes to watch Winnie the Pooh videos, and will rewind the same sentence over and over and over and over and over and over, and get the idea. This is enough to drive a non-autistic person crazy. Then one day, we heard him singing. He was nine. He was singing along with Carly Simon to the Winnie the Pooh song. He hates it when people sing, he will cover his ears, but he loves Carly Simon. It was the first time we ever heard him sing. We almost cried. It still gives me goose-bumps.

How do you tell if your child has Autism? This is a question we hear frequently. There are free rating scales available on the web today. You will need a professional opinion, and if a diagnosis of Autism is made, you can try to find resources from your state or local government. There are local support groups available all over the United States for parents and siblings. Some states do more to help families with disabled children than others, so we strongly suggest you look into what provisions your state has.

In the case of my nephew, we knew something was wrong, when all the other kids were doing things he was not doing. He did not want to play with other kids. He acted like they were not there. To this day, he does not play with toys, or other children. He could care less! He was forming sentences one day, and then he just stopped. He lost his ability to communicate. He stopped eating. He stopped everything. Instead of moving forward in his abilities, it was as if time started to go backwards.

On Christmas day his presents will sit there if you don't hand him one to open. He is content to just have his videos that rewind. He has a blank stare. It is unmistakable. You can see it in every school picture. He is in a school that is trying to teach him life skills.

He loves to watch water go down a drain, but now he also likes to watch it go over the sink, and cascade over the bathtub, we are all very cautious since my sister-in-law came home to ankle high water in the living room. He must have seen someone watering a lawn, and decided to water the carpet. He took the hose inside the house, and just turned it on. Thank God I was not living there at the time, or I would have had to move.

People will drive down our street, and you can tell by their eye movement, and the crinkled forehead look of disbelief that we let him (on occasion), waste a little bit of water. We let him turn the water on so he can watch it run down the driveway. Yes, it's true. Sometime we just let him. He has no excitement other than that, and he loves to watch the water cut a path down the driveway. Now before you balk at wasting water, what do your kids waste? He will never ride a bike, drive a car, go out on a first date, go to the prom, get married, etc. Most important, he will never initiate saying "I Love You" to his mother. When he says it, she has to say it first to him, then he echo's it back to her. So what's a little water in exchange for a little happiness to someone who will never experience these other memorable milestones in life?

One of the most important things you can do for your Autistic child is to include him or her in everyday events. Our Autism chapter will rent out an entire movie theatre for families, so they can have a family outing. When a new movie comes out, we try to arrange a Sunday morning viewing in Schaumburg, Illinois, at Loews Movie Theatres. Without them we would not have a venue for these kids.

E. L. Strauch is the webmaster for

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