He began the diagnosis process when he was three; he didn't know how to play with other kids in his preschool, and the teachers brought to our attention that when kids were playing, the only thing he knew how to do was lie on them. He also had mild echolalia, repeating conversations he heard on Dora rather than initiating "real" conversations.
He has been receiving services from the school district since he was four, and he is on an IEP to help him learn to interact socially and behave according to social norms. It's a bumpy road, but he's made progress. His progress is complicated by the fact that he also has ADHD, and finding the most helpful medication has been tricky.
For this month, I made two pages to raise people's awareness autism and what it entails. Here's my first page:
The photos I had hanging around for a while. I took them last year. This year has been much harder for him socially and behaviorally. A recent comment he made inspired the page. Here's the journaling:
Some time recently you told me, wistfully, “I miss Kindergarten.” Dominic, I know 1st grade has been hard, not academics—you rock there—but social interaction and behavior. It’s strenuous to go a full day, especially since your autism makes the extra time processing language and social cues very tiring, and you lash out when tired and frustrated. I want to encourage you to hang in there.
- Treat people with respect.
- Be flexible.
- Work to understand their perspective.
- Most of all, be kind and thankful to people who are trying to help you.
These are the most important things. When you live them, it gets easier and fun like kindergarten.
Dominic loves these pictures of himself--I haven't read him the journaling yet, though. He loves looking through his scrapbooks, so I'll let him read the journaling when he will.
One symptom of his autism is that I can't "make him" learn something socially that he needs to learn. Right now he tends to treat many social interactions as competitions, and when he loses or doesn't get his way, he overreacts, which can be scary for other kids. I can talk with him about not doing that, but when it happens again, he doesn't rationally think back to our last conversation. He acts upon those frustrations again, socially inappropriately.
I'm letting you know that so that you can understand that some kids with autism honestly can't control their emotions; it will take them longer than many neurotypical kids to do so. When you see a child having a meltdown that seems age-inappropriate, extend some kind thoughts for the parents. The child may have autism, and it may be beyond the child's control.
I'll share my other page when I finish it. This second page is a little more personal because I'm writing it from Dominic's perspective.