Autism Awareness

During Autism Awareness month, the following events in a loved one’s life seem pertinent.

As the third child, Lucas’ parents (Alex and Lindsay) attributed his delayed speech to his premature birth. That reasoning worked until their fourth child’s speech outpaced Lucas’. Having a brother with autism, Alex recognized characteristics in his son that reminded him of his brother. His preschool teachers said, “maybe he is autistic.”

“He could not use scissors. He still had the fist grab for a pencil. He would get angry if you tried to change the color of the crayon he had. We had to give him ample notice before any change or he would have a giant melt down. We really noticed his speech compared to our other kids. They were talking in full sentences,” his mother said. Plus, in typical autistic fashion, Lucas lined his toys up perfectly.  

Lindsay remembers his first school program. “I was so embarrassed,” she said. “Lucas would not stay with the group. He left the stage and he threw Baby Jesus.”

The next year the preschool teachers told her, “he is not making progress.”

“We had professionals come in the classroom to sit and watch him for several hours. They said ‘he is definitely autistic’.” 

His parents embraced professional advice for his high functioning autism. The speech therapist advised, “Make sure you are reading to him every night. Make sure you are really enunciating your words. Do not baby talk with him.”

Lucas has already shown huge improvements with his speech and will attend school in a regular classroom with a paraprofessional. “There has been such a huge improvement,” Lindsay said. “We caught it early enough.”

Still she reacted normally to the diagnosis.  “I felt like I had failed as a parent. I thought there was something I did wrong. Did I eat something wrong? Maybe what I did at work was not conducive for him. But then I realized, ‘it just is what it is’.”

Alex accepted it saying, “Well my brother is autistic.” 

With that in mind, Alex’s mom notes the difference professional help made for Lucas and wonders if early intervention might have helped him. 

Lindsay says, “I am realizing this is outside of what I know and can do and what I have been trained to do.” Lucas operates differently than his siblings. “Definitely disciplining him is different. The other three are more apt to listen and make corrections. He will fight tooth and nail. We have to get very stern with him, have deep conversations and take things away from him.”

Sensory issues mean none of Lucas’ clothes have tags. If he does not like some food, he quits eating it and there is no convincing him to finish. Because he does not like to have his head touched, haircuts begin with an experienced beautician giving him a toy that only he can hold. The toy distracts him while she cuts his hair.

With diagnosis and intervention, Lucas improved so much that at the next school program, he stayed and performed with the group. 

When it comes to food issues, his parents were advised, “if he does not want to eat something, then offer him one other option. Then he has to sit there until it is gone.”

“That is the worst  thing for him when he has to sit there until it is gone. He throws himself around crying, ‘Do I have to?’ And ‘You don’t  love me’’ his mother said.

And yet even the predictability of the answer “Yes you have to” contributes to the predictability he needs. With the guidance of the therapist and insight to the way his brain works, his parents have learned how to help Lucas to achieve his best and that’s what the most any parent wants for their child.