Sunday, April 3, 2011

Autism Awareness month

April is Autism Awareness month. I am not a part of a movement, but I am a parent of a child with autism. Dominic has something called PDD-NOS, a high functioning form of autism.

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.

Design-wise, I used Studio Calico's March kit, Into the Woods. I also misted with two colors on the background. I also used the EK Success Bumpy Road punch with purpose.

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.


Jackie said...

always a good reminder to have compassion - especially for kids!

alisonm said...

I wish I could tell you it will get easier, I will tell you it will help that Domenic got an early diagnosis. I feel Roddy would have had a much easier time in his younger years had we gotten the right diagnosis, the school thought he was not "buying" into his speech therapy. I wish we had stayed in Bangor where the services were. Oh well, hindsight. How can you not but love a child who feels emotions right to his being, but cannot tell you why. We still have these conversations at age 25, now he recognizes his disability.

Diana said...

Just letting you know that I read this and I appreciate your sharing this.

DanaMK said...

What a wonderful page and I think it's great that you're raising awareness for autism through your scrapbooking. Thank you for sharing with us.

Jessica said...

Wow this is a gorgeous page & journaling. What a great reminder. I think this is something most of us don't really understand until we are faced with it head on. My cousin's child is going through the process to diagnose it right now. I know it was a big shock to them, they were in denial as to why he wasn't talking. He is 4. But I am so relieved that now we will educate ourselves about it & try to understand better what their family is going through.

Beth Hallgren said...

I can't imagine how frustrating this must be for him. He couldn't have a better mother! My son has a rare form of stuttering. I'll never forget how I felt when the speech pathologist that evaluated him at U of M said he would never NOT stutter. You hang in there too :)

Keshet said...

I love the "hang in there" layout, Jenny--the photos and title are so poigant. Sending so much love:)

Linda said...

Jennifer, this is a beautiful page about your beautiful son. have you given any thought to submitting it to CK for their Creativity Heals column?

Carolyn Wolff said...

Beautiful page. Bless you and your son.

Staci said...

Beautiful page and heartfelt journaling! Thanks so much for sharing!