I’m going to call this entry that, but it’s not really about autism; I’m not a trained professional in that field, and it’s been a couple of years since I read anything written by a professional, on the subject. This entry is going to be about my 2 kids, who happen to be autistic, with just enough background information to give you an idea of their struggles as well as their triumphs. In the interests of brevity, I’m going to give you 2 examples of the areas in which they struggle most.
First of all, autism presents a… unique series of challenges, for my kids. Loud noises don’t startle them, so much as terrify them and temporarily obliterate their confidence. I spent 2 years carrying my boy everywhere outside, because the sound of a car (just driving, not turning on or back-firing or anything–it was just the sound of the motor) sent him to the ground, back against the nearest wall, hands clamped on ears, too scared even to cry. Even now, at nearly 8 and nearly 6, both of my kids stop cold and slam their hands over their ears, eyes darting feverishly, mouths slack with fear, if they hear an unexpected loud noise (especially in an unfamiliar place). I won’t lie; this can make things tricky on a good day, and downright dangerous, besides–they have been known to suddenly bolt across, for example, a parking lot, in front of the very real threat of moving cars, to escape the noise of something that is essentially harmless.
Secondly, pretty much every food known to man does, or has, made them physically sick. New (or old, but hated) tastes, textures, smells, even colours of food, can make them do anything from gag lightly to projectile vomit everywhere. They’re not faking it, they’re not trying to get out of eating their greens–my daughter spent 3 years throwing up whenever *I* ate something sloppy, like spaghetti bolognese, and my son most often gags when we try to give him sweets. (We’re odd, I suppose–I just want him to enjoy a chocolate, or a hard candy, or a gummy bear, or something.) This dislike of random textures extends to things like brushing their teeth… my son will just about let us brush him thoroughly (and he hasn’t had a cavity yet) but my daughter’s dental hygiene is very hit-and-miss, and she had several baby teeth pulled/capped/otherwise altered, to proactively protect her adult teeth. As to why we don’t just brush her teeth… have you ever tried to hold down a kicking and screaming 7-year-old, while holding her mouth open, while brushing her teeth, while pinning her hands, while stopping her from running away? There’s no gentle way to do it, and when she’s not cooperating, it’s a 2-person job. A heartless-seeming, brutal, soul-destroying 2-person job.
These, and many other challenges, can be disheartening, frustrating, terrifying, ridiculous, maddening, and occasionally, hilarious; but for all that, I have to say, I wouldn’t trade my babies for any other kids in the world.