Recently my husband and I decided it was time to tell our son he had ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder). The reason for this was because he's more mature (just turned 13 years old) and very soon he'll be starting high school.
He was told during a private father and son discussion, away from distractions.
As parents we've reinforced to him that he doesn't have a disability, just a different way of processing information and viewing life. He exhibits minor smatterings of this disorder and medically, he's totally fit and healthy and has never been on medication (though this had been suggested).
We often re-affirm how smart he is and discuss with him the many different types of genius each person has. In his case, it's the amazing cartooning style he has and his black and white sketches and although totally colour blind, his paintings using colour are also unique and beautiful.
I recently asked his permission to write about him and ASD as my intention was to write how we dealt with this as a family, and that someone else might also benefit from it. He kindly gave me his permission and here's what he says:
I don't really understand things – I look around and see what everybody else in class does but I can't understand what's going on (in maths class).
I get very upset and stressed with myself and feel stupid with what's going on around me in class and I hate myself for it.
I always suspected that there was something different about me. It was confirmed when my parents finally told me.
I feel good that I've been told, but not good about the ASD. Now I feel more stupid and dumb as well as disabled.
The fact is I fall under ASD but I would rather know than not, it explains why I have difficulty with certain things.
Dad could've told me in a different way about the ASD, he should've just got straight to the point. He (dad) told me in a roundabout way as did mum and I'd rather have been told more to the point and then had it explained to me more.
It makes me angry when I tell other children about the ASD because they think I'm joking and say there's nothing wrong with me. It's sort of good to know they don't believe me because it makes me feel more normal.
ASD makes me angry because I have to deal with the fact I have ASD.
When I think, I move my fingers, it clarifies things for me.
I really need help with mathematics.
All I want now is to become very intelligent.
Flowers essences have helped me to calm down, release stress and to think better.
My advice to other parents of ASD children is to give them more attention, not just from the parents but also from teachers. Give them extra tuition with subjects they have trouble with, and tell them there's nothing wrong with them, they just think differently.
What we did that worked for us:
Never making idle promises. When he was very little and something had been promised it became his reality, when the promise didn't eventuate all hell broke loose;
If old fashioned parenting didn't work, something new was tried. Yelling and screaming makes things worse not better;
Set firm boundaries which were explained and why, and then enforced them;
Willingness to try new/alternative health therapies, I've tried many, some with great success;
Turned to brain exercises by visiting a brain gym® instructor. Brain gym (educational kinesiology) enhances learning and performance in all areas. We noticed a difference in our son almost immediately and followed up with teachers and after school care coordinators who also noticed a difference;
Some coaching but only when he was in the right head space;
Listening and noticing changes however subtle (he's quite introverted);
Chose an age where we felt he'd understand what ASD means without adding too much technical information.
Several weeks ago he was one of the top ten Community award winners for water-saving strategies. We met the Lord Mayor as well as the other nine water-saving families of the city at an awards ceremony. Today we found out he's also been awarded a Young Star Award in the category of Community and have been invited to an awards evening in the coming weeks. He's also in the running for the overall Young Star Award to be awarded in June 2006. To say we're proud of him is an understatement.
It's been hard work and at times very tiring, particularly the very early years, and has required a ton of patience, thinking outside the square and consistency with our parenting techniques.
Reflecting on my life now I simply couldn't imagine life without him in it. He's opened my heart and expanded me as a human beyond my wildest imagination and for that I shall always be thankful.
Michaela Scherr is a Transformational Coach in Brisbane Australia
submitted by Michaela Scherr in Brisbane, Australia