Saturday, October 31, 2015

What a Visit With Our Children With Autism Looks Like

We have two children with autism, both on the severe side, both considered nonverbal. They live in a group home together with two other children. We try to have them over for a visit every week.

This is what an average visit looks like.

  • I show up at the group home. Abby is usually watching out the window beside the door and so she sees me right away. She grins and does wild hand gestures. Logan hugs me and says, "Hi Dad."
  • We get into the car and Logan says to me, "Turn up music please." He doesn't seem to care what kind of music, but when I am driving it is classic rock.
  • We arrive home and Logan and Abby run into the house. I am working on getting them to close the car doors first. It is coming along.
  • They immediately head for the television. We have often watched DVDs but Abby has been frequently changing movies soon after they start and so we have switched to Netflix.
  • We then sit down to a Veggie Tales marathon. Our three younger children claim they hate Veggies Tales, as they are too old for that now, but they are glued to the screen while Logan and Abby are here.
  • There are frequent interceptions of mostly Abby (but sometimes Logan) as they try to find food in the kitchen. Neither of them ever feel full so we have to be careful and only do controlled snacks.
  • Logan grabs his superhero books and reads them while watching TV.
  • Abby starts grabbing toys, books, DVDs and anything else to create a display on top of Faith's bed.
  • There is a lot of hugging, laughing and smiling.
  • Both Logan and Abby tell me, "No thank you!" when I try to sing.
  • Then they get picked up to go back to their group home. But not before we get a hug and kiss from our children.

That is what a typical visit looks like and it always gives us great joy.


Thursday, October 15, 2015

5 Reasons I am Glad I Have an Autism Diagnosis

I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 46. Why would I do such a thing at my advanced age? My doctor didn't suggest it. It was all my idea. In addition, it is not as if there are programs or treatments (not that I would want them).

Since I do get asked this question frequently, I thought I would share five reasons I'm glad I have an autism diagnosis.

1. My primary motivation was to be a better husband. My diagnosis gives some meaning to the differences between my wife and I. I hope to learn on how I can connect better with her.

2. The diagnosis also helps my wife. She can see that my lack of romance is not because I am uncaring but because I have trouble understanding it.

3. The diagnosis helps me to understand many things that were a part of my childhood. I used to think I was just weird. Now I understand it was that everyone else was weird.

4. I am more comfortable with silence. I used to try and fill silence with meaningless chit chat. It was very painful. Now I learn from my nonverbal children and am okay not saying anything.

5. I am now more confident and happy with myself. For many years I compared myself to others (mostly people without autism). I am fine with my brain wired a different way. My only goal is just to be the best possible me.

Each of these reasons make me thankful that I have my autism diagnosis.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Vilifying People With Autism

One of the most disturbing things that I have encountered recently has been the creation of a Facebook page, "Families Against Autistic Shooters." To find out background on this situation, read this article.

I really do not know why anyone would do such a thing. Were they really afraid of people with autism? Was it just a gimmick to get attention? I really do know.

What I do know is that there is no excuse for such behaviour. Are people with autism more likely to be involved in shootings? No, not at all. Those shooters who may have been somewhere on the spectrum, would not have been violent because of the makeup of their brain. Having something does not make it a cause.

I also know that there is fear of people with autism. Some may fear violence and it is a good idea to not be in the middle of an autistic meltdown. But I have seen neuro-typical people punch each other in the face for getting impatient and honking a horn. Autism does not make it more likely that someone will be violent.

The fear is usually more about the unknown. I have seen people afraid of my daughter. They don't know what she will do or how she will react and so they get scared. She senses that fear and gets stressed out. The truth is that no one has anything to fear from Abby. She is a sweet girl.

One of the main points of autism awareness is to help stop the fear. People with autism are simply people with different wiring in our brains. The autistic community does not need people like the creators of that Facebook page to increase the fear.

I am glad that so many people have been outraged by that page. I would ask that you take it to the next step and get to know people with autism and spread the word about no fear.