Since he was sufficiently old to steer, my son, Archer, has gone in a circle. He was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2; his earliest symptoms included a bent to spin his toys. When he became ambulatory, Archer started spinning his own body — not during a “whirl around until dizzy” way, but in quick jumps and turns, while pacing back and forth and lecture himself during a barely audible singsong.
Archer is 13 now, taller than his mother, and he’s still half-walking and half-running in tight ovals, carrying on hushed conversations with himself. initially glance, most anyone would see Archer as a typical teen. within the back seat of my car on the thanks to school, he sprawls out, iPad or iPhone in hand, looking sort of a loosely assembled collection of limbs. Then he hops out, straps on his backpack, and does a clumsy half-sprint to the junior high school courtyard, within the unselfconsciously uncool way common to numerous of the autistic and other people with Asperger’s.
A few weeks ago I picked him up after class, and that we went through our regular routine, where he tells me, period by period, what he did that day. One advantage of having a communicative, detail-oriented autistic child is that my wife and that I hear tons more about what happens at college than most parents of teenagers do.
AT SOME POINT I even have to inform HIM HE CAN’T SPIN AND MUMBLE publicly OR PEOPLE WILL THINK HE’S CRAZY
On today, he walked me through what happened in choir, biology, algebra, history, literacy (the fancy new word for “English”), manufacturer applications, then “career orientation,” which is where the varsity district dumps tons of life advice that once I was growing up would’ve been handled in assemblies.
This hour of career orientation was all about registering for ninth grade and knowing which credits are needed to graduate. The conversation made me feel mildly panicked because it jogged my memory that the countdown clock to Archer’s adulthood keeps ticking closer to zero. And while his school features a rundown of courses he’ll get to take before he can advance, I even have my very own alarmingly incomplete checklist of what he must know before I’ll feel comfortable about sending him off to school.
Here’s number one: at some point, I even have to inform him he can’t pace and spin and mumble publicly or people will think he’s crazy.
Why I’m making the checklist
Autistic spectrum disorders present as a set of tics and social handicaps, which vary from person to person. The severely autistic are often nonverbal and may spend hours every day rocking back and forth and humming, in their own worlds. But even the “high-functioning” — like my son — exercise self-stimulating behavior called “stimming.” Some flap their hands or fidget with a favorite object. Others make guttural noises, producing vibrations in their heads that make noise other sounds.
For decades, this aspect of autism was framed as a torment, like someone with the obsessive-compulsive disorder being unable to steer past a doorknob without turning it 3 times — or as a defense reaction, keeping other stimuli cornered. one among the best-known autists, scientist Temple Grandin, has described the feeling of stimming differently, calling it something pleasurable, neither a curse nor a shield.
Archer has shed tons of his stims over the years. He wont to rapidly flip his fingers around, forming them into the rough shapes of numbers. When he stopped doing that, he started carrying around an erasable slate, onto which he’d scribble figures quickly then wipe them out. Then he replaced the slate with a calculator. Now when he paces about and talks to himself, he’s often doing advanced calculations in his head.
But while Archer looks literally lost in thought when he’s stimming, he can snap back to attention in a moment. That’s why at the start of every academic year when my wife and that I am going over Archer’s Individualized Education Program together with his new teachers, I always tell them that when it involves his quirks, “Be understanding, not tolerant.” In other words: know that he may feel the necessity to urge up and walk around within the middle of sophistication, so aren’t getting angry with him for that, but do correct his behavior if it’s disruptive. He can follow directions.
Here’s what else I want to speak with Archer about before he graduates from high school.
1) The importance of “good hands”
Archer doesn’t do that the maximum amount as he won’t to, but he still features a tendency to tug at the crotch of his pants, adjusting himself unsurreptitiously. When he was younger, we’d correct him by saying, “Remember to possess good hands.”
We’d also remind him to respect other people’s personal space and to not reach out and touch them without their permission. one among my biggest fears is that at some point he’s getting to casually grab at some friendly acquaintance’s face with one hand while he’s scratching himself with the opposite, and bang! He’ll find yourself in jail for sexual abuse.
2) the way to cook
Because I’m usually during a hurry to urge a meal on the table, I have never taken the time to point out either of my kids the way to prepare even the only food. If I told Archer to form his own breakfast or lunch, he wouldn’t know where to start. He may have a hotel plan in college, but at some point, he’s getting to need to feed himself, albeit it’s just grilled cheese and tater tots.
3) the way to keep his body and his room clean
When Archer reached adolescence and began to smell a touch, I had the talk with him about showering more diligently and using deodorant, and since then body odor hasn’t really been a drag —although his sensory issues mean that he doesn’t wash or brush his hair also as he should.
His experiences with orthodontics have improved his toothbrushing skills, which demonstrated that if properly motivated I could get him to be more liberal with the shampoo within the shower. It’s getting to be harder, though, to seek out an honest reason (beyond bribery) to urge him to try to do dishes or laundry or to use a dust rag or mop. If I can find how to elucidate it to him logically, maybe I can get him to know why he’s getting to need to tear himself far away from his computer or iDevice long enough every day to try to do some basic housecleaning.
ONE OF THE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT RAISING AN AUTISTIC CHILD IS THAT IT’S UNLIKE RAISING the other CHILD