1980 30 Rock 70th anniversary 9/11 aberration aberration nation aberration story Aberrations abortion absinthe abuse acceptance accident Acting actors ADD addiction ADHD adolescents adoptee adoption adult advocacy Afganistan Aikido Air Force Alan Cummings Alan Katz Alan Shipnuck alcoholic alcoholism Algis Budrys Allen Koszowski Allison Gilbert American Pain Society American relgion amputee And Tango Makes Three angelique price Anneli Rufus anorexia Antwone Fisher Area 23 Area 23 Gallery army art art interview art merged with painting art movements art of the nude art shows in Shreveport Art Talk artist artpop arts asperger's syndrome atheism attitude austin author author interview autisitc autism. aberration story autism. aberrations Avalon Books awareness axs.tv baby baby momma Backseat Saints Bad Blake bantam barebrush basketball Becky Hammon Behance belly dancing Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Bible Belt bicycles bipolar bipolar disorder bite size life Blonde Ambition blue man group Bob Hogge body image book Book Expo America book review book trailer Boundaries breast cancer Bridget Asher Brokeback Mountain Buckhead Buddha building blueprints for better girls bulimia bullying By Whose Hand Caesar Augustus Films Calvet Calvet movie camping cancer cartoonist celebrity censorship Centerpeices Centerpieces chairs chang and eng Charlaine Harris chasing boys Chasity Bono Chelsea Cher Chick Lit child children Chris Cleave Chris Tatevosian chrisitanity Christian christianity Christine A. Baker Christine Baker Christine Havrilla chronic illness chronic pain Cirque Du Freak claudia furlani coaching contemporary art controlled substances corporate america Cougar Town Courtney Cox Crazy Heart creation creatives creativitity creativity Cyril Connolly Da Vinci Code dan rather darin strauss Dario Posado dark fiction dark side Darren Shan David Christian David H. Burton DeAnna Cameron Deanna Nolan death deceased parents Dedication Deep South defying gravity Denzel Washington deployment depression Deuce Bigalow diets director disabilities disabled divorce documentary dominic allen Douglas Morton Douglas Preston Down's Syndrome Downtown Shreveport Dragonlance Dragons drive drug abuse Dust dysfunctional family Earth Matter eating disorders Ed McCormack editor egon schiele Elissa Schappell Ellen Degeneres Emily Lisker Endtime Magazine Eric Gipson Erich Fromm Esther Barend eugene mcbride Evelyne Tannehill Excercist expression expressionism Facebook failure faith family fantasy art feature film fiction figurative figurative art figurative art collectors figurative expressionism figurative expressionism contemporary figurative expressionism definition figurative expressionist film filmmaker Finding Fish fine art Finnian's Journey fire Flea Frank Conroy Fredric Almond functional family fundamentalist religion Gallery Gallery and Studio Gaming Gary Powell gay gay adoption gay issues gender George Bailey Georgia German Germany Bonell Gideon's Sword Gina Mollicone-Long Glamour glee Glenn Beck God God No God's in Alabama Godz Taylor Grand Central Grand Central Publishing grandparents graphic artist Greenleaf Book Group Greenspan grief growing up Guggenheim Haiti half a life happiness Harlan Ellison hero High Przekop. writing high school Hodgkin's Lymphoma Holy Blood Holy Grail homeless homelessness hope horror How to Tie a Tie Hrag vartanian human brain development human nature Hurricane Hotel hydrocephalus hyperallergic hyperallergic.com identity Ileen Skeen illness falsification illustrator imperfect endings Incendiary Incognito Witch individuality intentional practice interivew interview Interviews Iowa Writer's Workshop Iraq Irvin Baxter ishiguro Israel It's a wonderful life James Michener Jean Marc Calvet Jeff Bridges Jeff Goins Jennifer Bolen Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jesus Take the Wheel Jim Shepard Jimmy Breslin John Cafferty John currin John Gilstrap john K. Lawson Joshilyn Jackson journey Joyce Dibona Julianna Baggott Julie Gregory Justin Bieber Justin Bua kandinsky Karin Perez Karina Sala kathy Ostman-Magnusen Katie Holmes Kelly Brorsheim Kevin O'Hanlon kids Kimmelman kristen stewart LA large families Larry Brubaker Laura Shumaker lesbian LGBT lies life tabernacle Liimu McGill Lina Bonell Lincoln Child Linda Wisniewski Link Lisa Morguess Lisa See Little Bee Lizzie Miller loneliness loner looking for love Lori McKenney Los Angeles losing my religion lost pregnancy Lou Patrou Louisiana Louisiana art Love Love Your Body Love Your Life Lovestruck Lovestuck Summer Luiz Cavalli madness Making Ideas Happen Malcolm Gladwell man in woman's body manic depression maranatha school marc zegans Margaret Weis mari yamagiwa Marina Hadley Marisa Acocella Marchetto Mark Twain mark zuckerberg marker art marriage Marya Hornbacher marya hornbacker Master Innovation Group materialism Max's Kansas City maya angelou meaning Melissa Walker memoir mental health mental illness Miami Mice don't taste like chicken Michael Bamberger Michael Chabon Michael Cunningham Michael Seif Michael Smerconish Micheal Jordan mid-life crises middle grade fiction midlife Mikic Miley Cyrus military ministry Minya miscarriage mixed media Mojo Perry Molly Kellogg Monkdogz monkdogz urban art motherhood mothers motivation movie review MS MTV multiple sclerosis multitalent Munchausen by proxy Museum of Natural History music musicians muslim My Losing Season My Summer Friend mysteries of the universe N. E. Bode narcolepsy Narcolepsy network narcotics nature Navy never let me go New Jersey New Orleans New York City New York Times News Newsweek Ninety Naps a Day No War Norman Lear norsworthy gallery novel novels nude art nudes NYC o.y.l. Obama obsession obsessive compulsive disorder OCD Off kilter opioids Oprah Oprah Magazine Oprah Winfrey orphan Other Outliers painting Parentless Parents Paris Party of One passion pastor Pat Conroy Patti LaBelle Pearl Lounge Pema Chodron penelope Penelope Academy of Art University Penelope Przekop Penelope Przekop. writing Penelope Przekop. writing life Penn and Teller Penn Jillette perfection peripheral arterial disease phantom pain Philadelphia photography phychology Phyllis Whitney picasso Please Love Me plexiglas plus size models poem poetry Politics pregnancy Print Magazine Procession of the Dead producer progressive Prophetess Przekop przekop. writing psychedelic Psychology Today psychotic break publishing pulmonary fibrosis Purple Heart purpose of art PWN queer quilting Quote Quotes R. L. Stine R.E.M. fundamentalist rage Randy Thurman rape Raul Rudd reading reality Red Hot Chili Peppers relationships relativity relevance relgion religilous Religion religious review Reviews Revolutionary Road Richard Yates Robert Trudeau robert zemeckis rock Rock and roll Rock Band Rogue Space roller coasters Rothko Rouge Space same-sex parents San Diego Sandra Carey Cody Sandro La Ferla Santiago Betancur Sarah Maria Scarred for Life Sci-port science fiction scoliosis Scott Belsky scott heydt screenwriter sculpture Sebastien Aurillon second coming of Christ selective mutism Selective Mutism Group SETI sex change Shanghai Girls Sheffield film festival Sheila Parr Sheila Wolk Shreveport Shreveport Art Shreveport artist Sickened Simon Cowell simon schuster singer single parenting sleep disorders sleepiness Soho Soho artists solo show songwriter Sonny Sookie Stackhouse Sophie Kinsella soul southern southern culture spanish special education spina bifida sports art Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj stabbed Stephen King stillborn stubborn teen support survey Take this blog and shove it talent tales from the script Taylor Dynasty teaching teen poetry teen runaway teen stories teen suicide teenagers teens television Teresa Lauer Terri Cheney The Art of Loving The Belly Dancer The Center of Winter The Children's Aid Society The Climb The Mentor The Milwaukees The Netherlands The New York Pearl Lounge The New Yorker the provence cure for the brokenhearted The Second Coming The Swinger therapy Think or Sink Tiger Woods tim harakal tin house TM Muzik Tom Grimes Toni Morrison tough love Tracy J. Thomas transgendered tribulation True Blood truth twenty somethings Twin Towers two dads two mothers Tyrone Patrick Fehey unresolved issues urban art van gogh vanity fair veterans vietnam war vincent van gogh violence Violet by Design voice Waiora war Washington wasted water What Dat Nation Where do I find art in Shreveport Why She Plays Wicked Wizard of Oz WNBA women's basketball World War II writer writer's life writers writing YA Year One young love young person youth youth sports Zoe Fitzgerald Carter
6527212 October 16, 2008

My Son Has Autism: An Aberration Story


"What makes us better people? It's not the uneventful, routine parts of our lives. It's the hardships, challenges, crises, and unexpected surprises that build our character and make us stronger."


If you watched the US presidential debate last night, you heard that autism is on the rise. If you're like me, you don't know a heck of a lot about it. I saw the movies Rain Man, and Mozart and the Whale (one of my favorite movies, by the way), and I've read a few articles in Newsweek about autism over the years. However, I suspect this narrow view provided by the media can't begin to explain what it's like to live with autism day in and day out.

According to the Autism Society of America, autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life and affects a person’s ability to communicate and interact with others. Autism is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a "spectrum disorder" that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Karen, a forty-two-year-old mother of six who lives in Washington State, found herself thrown into the world of autism when her youngest son, Adrian, was born. This gutsy, fantastic mom has volunteered to become the first official member of the Aberration Nation by sharing her experience with us.

Describe autism for us using your own terms. What is it like to have a child with autism, and how does it impact your day-to-day?

There are several aspects of autism. For Adrian, the main challenges are speech delay, obsessive-compulsive behavior, hyperactivity, and anxiety. It’s not just a developmental disorder, it’s psychological. Adrian's autism affects just about every part of our family life. From 18 months to around three-years-old, screaming was his form of communication. I was going out of my mind. I had my husband bring home a pair of ear plugs because I had to take the edge off. The high-pitch actually hurt my ears. With the plugs, I could still hear and help him, while also protecting my ears. As his speech has improved, the screaming has nearly disappeared. However, the meltdowns and head banging have not. His head banging began at 18 months and continues. It hurts to see your child hurt himself and be frustrated with his own inability to communicate. Just like all parents, I want to make it all better.

Because Adrian has such strong obsessive-compulsive behaviors, he likes routine. All toddlers like routine, but for autistic children, it’s imperative. Because Adrian was born into a big family, he isn’t too rigid. We try not to let autism get in our way of family fun. It does restrict us sometimes, but we do our best. For example, for vacations, I try to rent a house or a townhouse so we don’t have to worry about Adrian getting too loud. In a hotel, we would worry that Adrian’s temper tantrums would disturb others. When shopping, I pick up a bag of plain M&M’s, and I’m usually able to accomplish my goals without too much trouble. If he does have a meltdown, I do what any parent with a toddler does. I pick him up and leave the store immediately. People think Adrian is an ordinary toddler having a tantrum. I worry and wonder if he'll still have tantrums at ten. That’s when I’ll get the look.

How did your son come to be diagnosed with autism, and what was your initial reaction? How did you cope and how has your view changed over time?

I knew Adrian was autistic before he was diagnosed. When he was 18 months old I realized he was behind in speech. Then the head banging began. It was violent and disturbing. I knew something wasn't right. We bought Geotrax train sets for Adrian at Christmas. He was too young to set them up, but enjoyed watching the trains. He was obsessed. I had to buy rechargeable batteries because he played with the train set all day long for three days in a row. No toddler plays with one toy for that long. If there is one thing I can say about an autistic child like mine, you will get more than your money’s worth on your toy purchase.

I began researching all the different disorders that matched my son’s behavior. The only thing that made sense to me was autism. I cried and grieved just as if Adrian had died. When I realized something was wrong, the son I thought I would have died. When this happens, all those dreams we as parents have for our children are suddenly gone. During those first few weeks, it’s dark; it feels like it will never get better. Researching and taking advantage of all my resources, such as medical and educational, made me feel like I had some sort of control over autism. The support that the medical and educational system gives parents/siblings is invaluable. Adrian’s family doctor didn't believe autism was the correct diagnosis, but I asked him to send us to Children’s in Seattle for our evaluation. He did without any hesitation.

We went to Children’s, and Adrian was diagnosed. It enlightened our family doctor to the fact that there are so many faces to autism. Adrian is very social and engaging, so it is a surprise to people when they find out he is autistic. If they spent the entire day with Adrian, they would see the speech delay, the obsessive-compulsive behavior, and the temper tantrums. After grieving the loss of what I thought my child’s life would be, it was very easy to accept new and different ideas of what his life would be.

Most of the time, Adrian is a very happy, energetic, funny, and lovable kid. It’s so much fun having him in the mix of this family. Seeing his fast progression gives us hope for his future. He is intelligent. He has mastered most of the things preschoolers learn such as his ABCs, counting to 20, all his shapes, and colors. He will blow you away with his ability to surf the Internet, operate the DVD player, and play video games well beyond his age level.

How has autism shaped your life in general, including your self esteem and your world view? Has it changed your views on motherhood?

Any challenge you face with success will improve your self esteem. I really worry about the world we live in since autism has skyrocketed. One of Adrian’s teachers says the increase is not due to diagnosing children that would not have been in the spectrum ten years ago. Rather, she says the increase includes the moderate to severe autistic children. This increase is frightening. In fact, there are three (including Adrian) autistic children on just one part of my street.

Now, as a mother, I worry more, and I’m more protective. I worry so much about Adrian going to kindergarten. He's been in a special education preschool since age three; however, he's in a class of five or six other kids like him. I worry about kids picking on him in elementary school. I’ve decided I will home school him if this happens. I know I cannot protect Adrian all his life, but if I give him a good start maybe he'll be strong enough to handle any hurtful remarks as a confident young adult.

What do you think are the most common misconceptions about autism?

The most common misconception about autism is that people think autistic children fit into one stereotypical box. The movie Rain Man is their point of reference--or some made-for-TV movie showing a boy rocking in the corner, totally detached from his environment. There are so many differences in autism, we cannot be distracted by the extremes of the spectrum.

What has autism taught you about yourself and others? How has it made you better or stronger?

It has been an epiphany for me. I never would have imagined being the mom of an autistic child. I simply did not think that I would make a good candidate. Most importantly, sense of humor must be maintained at all costs. A good sense of humor makes everything better. It has made me a stronger person. What makes us better people? It's not the uneventful, routine parts of our lives. It's the hardships, challenges, crises, and unexpected surprises that build our character and make us stronger. Adrian has taught me patience most of all because some things come a little slower with him. We went from a 30 word vocabulary with no two words together to sentences, but it took years. Each little milestone is amazing. I really learned to appreciate little accomplishments. For example, we were waiting for an open cashier at the commissary, when Adrian mimicked the electronic voice that says "next please." Adrian said, "Next please," just like a parrot. He had just turned three. Most three-year-old kids are chatting away, but Adrian was just beginning to put two words together.

I'm amazed at the relationship between Adrian and his sisters and brothers. Kids are so good with special needs kids. And I was so proud of my husband and how he had such an open and positive approach to Adrian. There was no negativity. I'm so grateful for that because sometimes parents never get over the loss of the ideas or expectations they have for their children. Not clinging too closely to those expectations for any of our children, special needs or not, is a good lesson to learn.

My husband and I definitely went through the feelings of guilt. We both thought did we do something to cause this. I thought that I didn't take care of myself well enough during the pregnancy. Did I get x-ray exposure at work accidentally? Has the military done something to my husband that affected the chromosomes? Is it hereditary? We went all through that, and it can drive a person crazy. However, we put a stop to that nonsense pretty quickly. For us, it doesn't matter how or why. We love Adrian dearly, and we will deal with everything one day at a time. We will leave the how and why to the researchers, and pray they are able to unlock the mystery.

What are the top three things we can do for parents dealing with autism?

1) Be understanding. If you're shopping and you see a child having a total meltdown, don’t jump to a conclusion that this parent doesn't know how to discipline. Don’t think that the child is undisciplined. First, consider that this child may be autistic.

2) Be supportive. If you have a friend or family member with an autistic child, it would be wonderful to have respite care. If you can't provide it, maybe you can research the area for a respite provider.

3) The most important thing you can do is PRAY. We all need prayer.

If you could say anything to the world about autism, what would it be?

Autistic children are incredibly special people. They just look at the world in a different way.

It’s an honor being a part of their world.
_______________________

If you'd like to join the Aberration Nation by sharing your story, contact me.

Read more →