(Photo source: BBC News Magazine)
As you can imagine, as the mother of an autistic child I read a LOT of articles about autism. This week I came across an article about Donald Grey Triplett, the first child ever to be diagnosed with autism (full article linked below).
It’s a fascinating and inspiring story which ultimately ends on a positive note. To try to cut a long story short I shall summarise:- Triplett was born in 1933 in Mississippi, USA. As a young child he exhibited some ‘unusual’ behaviours that didn’t tally with ‘normal’ child development and was part of a research group that resulted in him being given the first ever label of autism. As was the custom in those days, his parents were advised to have him institutionalised which they did. However, they visited him regularly and after a period of time decided it wasn’t the right thing to do and they took him home again. His mother worked tirelessly to help him overcome certain difficulties and today he is an 82 year old man living a perfectly happy and fulfilling life albeit with the understanding and support of the local community in his hometown.
What I particularly want to highlight in my post here is the message from the following quote:-
“What Donald’s story suggests is that parents hearing for the first time that a child is autistic should understand that, with this particular diagnosis, the die is never cast. Each individual has unique capacity to grow and learn, as Donald did, even if he hit most of his milestones rather later than most people.” ~ John Donvan and Caren Zucker authors of the book In a Different Key:The Story of Autism
This is such an important point to highlight. A lot of people don’t realise that a child with autism has as much potential to grow and develop as any other child does, it’s just that they are likely to do so in a non standard way and within a different time frame. I’m not suggesting that autistic children all have the potential to lead what is considered a ‘regular’ life as adults (although some do), but more that they can live a full life that is just as valid as anyone else’s life experience. And that we should never place limitations on our expectations of what any child can achieve, autistic or not.
Reason to Believe
My post today is going to be something a bit different. I’m following the Blogging 101 course with WordPress and today’s assignment is to use the Daily Prompt to write a post. So, I’m taking a break from my normal style of post but still sticking with my blog topic. Are you following so far? 🙂
The Daily Prompt is ‘Reason To Believe’.
With this blog I really wanted to keep an upbeat tone in general and to showcase the ‘lighter’ side of autism but this particular prompt spoke to me right away on a deeper level. In this post I am going to write straight from my heart.
There is no getting away from the fact that having autism makes life somewhat more challenging than for the average NT (neurotypical) person. Nobody’s future is especially certain but for a child with autism the outlook is that bit more uncertain. It would be very easy for me as a mother to get weighed down by the worry about my son’s future, and in the past I have done exactly that.
As the years have gone by I have made a conscious choice and effort not to think too hard about the long term future for him. Of course I do think about his future and consider the possibilities and options, it would be foolish not to, but I try not to dwell on all the potential difficulties and barriers ahead. I have also learnt from experience that, in any case, predicting anything about him is a futile business!
I have reason to believe that my son’s future will turn out just fine.
I believe it because it helps me keep strong in the face of adversity.
And I believe it because my son amazes me over and over again.
I wish now that I had written down the funny things that my son has said over the years so that I could remember them all. Alas, when my children were younger life was hectic and I didn’t think (or have the energy!) to keep a record.
I love that some of these ‘lost’ conversations pop up via my Facebook ‘On This Day’ app. from time to time and I get to relive them. Today I was treated to one such memory from several years ago when my son was 8 years old.
At the time he had a Cowboy themed bedroom and we had bought a couple of small cacti plants for him to have in his room. One of them was’furry’. One day he came to me and said:-
“Can we go to the garden centre and buy a new cactus for my bedroom?”
I replied “Yes we can, but why do you want another one?”
“Because I think I just accidentally killed one.” he responded looking sad.
“You killed one of your cacti?” I queried wondering how he could have managed that.
“Yes, I was just combing it’s hair and it came out of it’s pot and now I think it’s dead….”
He was such a sweet child (well, he still is in a teenage sort of way 😉 ).
I’m still very much in the experimental stages with this my new blog. I haven’t been happy with the visual look of my blog from the start and today I decided to do something about it.
I tried out theme after theme but none of them sat quite right until I came across this one – Something Fishy! I really like the general layout, it’s much more what I had in mind, but ‘Oh, what about the fish?’.
At first I thought ‘What a shame, I like how it looks but the whole fish thing has no connection with my blog’s content so I can’t use this theme.’
And then I thought ‘Actually, why not?’
1. The title of my blog is Don’t Puzzle It. I should take my own advice.
2. My blog is about an autistic life and embracing the difference of it and this quirky look is in perfect keeping with that theme.
3. And hey, I happen to really like fish!
So, I’m keeping the fish. For now at least. 🙂
“Would you want to live in Fjordland?”
It’s not the first time I have been asked this question by my son, in fact he has been asking me on a regular basis since he first created this new country a few months back.
I pretend to consider the question carefully.
“Is it cold there?” I ask, even though I already know the answer to this question. Indeed I know Fjordland almost as intimately as he does since I’ve seen the drawn plans for it and everything.
“Yes.” he replies.
“Well then no” I say. “I don’t like cold places.”
Quick as anything he chirps “We sell winter coats!” with a salesman’s winning smile. At that we look at each other and start laughing.
Because of his autism my son can get fixated on a particular topic for months at a time. He created the imaginary country Fjordland, a country which he plans to create for real one day. He works away at the planning of it on an ongoing basis to the point where his plans are pretty complex.
He wants to engage me in conversation about it and always uses the same question as an opener “Would you want to live in Fjordland?”. But here’s the thing, after that initial question the conversation can go ANYWHERE. I vary my responses each time and there is absolutely no telling what he will say back.
Conversations in general with my son often get very creative and are so much fun. With him it’s a case of expect the unexpected. Sometimes it feels as if I am living in some kind of never ending improv. sketch. It keeps life interesting and fresh.
A bedtime conversation:-
– “Can I tell you about my idea?”
– “Yes, but quickly because you need to sleep.”
– “I’m working on an idea for a business called IST. That stands for International Space Tourism.”
– “That sounds like a great idea.”
– “Yes, and I’ve got about three billion other ideas too.” [He grins, knowing that I’m trying to get him to settle down and go to sleep.]
– “Fantastic. But could you maybe tell me about them tomorrow? It’s late now.”
– “OK. Goodnight.”
In my autistic son’s mind anything is possible. He doesn’t think with the kind of preconceived constraints and limitations that most of us tend to have. He has new ideas daily. The world needs thinkers like my son. The world needs people like him who have the ability to see things differently to the established norm. Society is facing ever more complex problems which need creative, previously unthought of methods of solutions. I think the autistic mind will prove to be invaluable in this respect.
Hi and Welcome to my blog. Let me introduce myself and tell you a little bit about my plans for this blog.
I am a forty something year old mother of three children; two teenagers and an eight year old. It so happens that my middle child has autism. That fact both is and isn’t a big deal in life.
There’s already a huge volume of traffic relating to autism floating around the internet much of which presents autism as a mysterious puzzle to which we must find a solution.
With this blog I want to present something different. I want to take the mystery and fear out of autism and showcase it’s lesser known best side. Because just as in anyone’s life, yes there are challenges and frustrations that come with autism, but there’s a lot more besides.
My grand plan is to interview my son and post the resulting conversations here but of course this approach is dependant upon his cooperation which comes with no guarantees!
I will also add my own thoughts and insights along the way but let’s see how this goes.