“He doesn’t look like he has autism.”


 

What do you think autism “looks like”?  Like Rain Man?

Doctor: Raymond, do you know what autistic is?
Raymond: Yeah.
Doctor: You know that word?
Raymond: Yeah.
Doctor: Are you autistic?
Raymond: I don’t think so. No. Definitely not.
                                                      —- From the movie Rain Man

     Autism can only be diagnosed by observing behavior. There is no blood test or brain scan that shows that they have autism. There are no characteristic facial traits or other physical signs of autism. They look just like anybody else. For more details on autism I recommend you read my other post: What exactly is autism? How did you know he had autism?

     They don’t all look and act like Rain Man.

     Though some are savants, they aren’t all human computers like the character in Rain Man. And actually, though the person they based the character on had autism like tendencies — his actual diagnosis wasn’t autism. 

     His name is Kim Peek:  “Kim Peek was born on November 11, 1951. He had an enlarged head, with an encephalocele, according to his doctors. An MRI shows, again according to his doctors, an absent corpus callosum – the connecting tissue between the left and right hemispheres; no anterior commissure and damage to the cerebellum. Only a thin layer of skull covers the area of the previous encephalocele.”  He had an ability to retain 95% of the information he received, most people remember more like 45%.  (I grabbed that info from this site)

     So you are right. My son doesn’t LOOK like he has autism.  But he sure does ACT like he has autism. 😛

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“I don’t know how you do it.”


     Well first of all – I don’t have a choice. I guess I could just be a reject mom and neglect my kids or run away, but if I don’t choose that route the only other option is to “do it”. I do it because I have to, because I don’t have a choice, because this is my life – and these are my precious babies. I do it because I love them, and I love my son with autism even when he is covered with poop, and I do it because I am the mom and it is my job. But my son is definitely lucky he is so cute because if not then I might not put up with all the adventures in poop. (ok I promise I won’t talk about poop anymore in this post)

     But aside from that, I think what really helps me “do it” is my positive attitude. And also my husband’s positive attitude and his calm in crisis which I am not so good at. You know that is actually one of the positive aspects of my husband’s ADD – that he is calm in crisis situations.  I have a feeling there will be a few posts about the negatives of having an ADD spouse (sorry honey) but at least I have admitted there are positives too. 😉

     So I tried the negative, poor me, life sucks attitude. It didn’t get me very far.

     After my son was diagnosed there was a definite mourning period. I mourned the loss of the son I thought I had, the one who was going to grow up to play major league baseball, the one who was going to talk before the age of 5, the one who was going to understand what danger is and avoid dangerous situations. And I was sad for about a year. I was embarrassed of him at times, I thought “Why me? Why us?”, I cried when I thought about how detached he was and how I couldn’t communicate with him. And I think it is healthy and normal to have that mourning period. Just like mourning a death, mourning the loss of my “typical son” went through the same phases:

  • Shock  (Autism? Really? But the pediatrician said he was fine, “a walker not a talker”)
  • Denial (He is very high functioning and should be able to be in a regular kindergarten class by the time he is 5)
  • Bargaining (Maybe it’s his diet. If we just change his diet then he won’t have autism)
  • Guilt  (If only I didn’t eat McDonald’s or lobster when I was pregnant. I should have known more about the vaccines before I let them inject him. I was under too much stress when I was pregnant and that is why he has autism. I had too many ultrasounds.  — I could go on all day talking about the guilt I felt.)
  • Anger (Why do I have to have a kid with autism? Why can’t I have the typical little boy that I thought I had!?! It is so hard – I can’t handle this!! He is so difficult – MAKE IT ALL STOP!!!!)
  • Depression (<sob>My son can’t communicate with me and pushes me away. <sob> I feel so alone, no one understands what I am going through. I am a bad mom, I should be able to do better. <sob>)
  • Resignation (The diet isn’t going to help. He is just different and he always will be different. We are not a typical family – we will not blend in, we are not “normal” and we will be stared at when we are in public.)
  • Acceptance and Hope (My boy is awesome just the way he is! He is so sweet and smart. He is such a joy. I am so blessed with my two beautiful and healthy babies. He is making great progress and can maybe even lead an independent life one day.)

     So that took about a year, and once I was at the acceptance and hope part I realized that a positive attitude makes such a big difference. Like the poster said in my 3rd grade classroom “Attitude is Everything”.

     I could go on and on about positive thinking and how our thoughts determine our reality – and I probably will – but that is for another post. For now, I leave you with a song 🙂

“What exactly is autism? How did you know he had autism?”


Short answer:  Autism is a disorder characterized by social deficits, communication deficits, and repetitive behavior. It is a spectrum disorder so these symptoms can present themselves in many different ways, from the mild to the quite severe. I always knew my son was different. And when he didn’t talk by age 2 I knew his development wasn’t on track.

Long answer:  As he got closer to age 2 the things that made him “different” started to become more noticeable and I started to worry. I had a lot of experience with kids. I worked as a nanny and in preschools before having children of my own so I knew that his development wasn’t on track. Plus his sister is two years older than him so I had her to compare him to. But those around me assured me he was fine and quieted my worries.

Some early things I noticed and brought up to the pediatrician were: He didn’t respond to his name, he didn’t seem to pay attention to me or have any sort of attachment to me, he had weird “rituals” (like rolling french fries on his cheeks before he ate them, and dancing in circles around his toys), and he didn’t follow any commands – he seemed deaf but I knew he could hear.

But every time I voiced my concerns to his pediatrician she assured me he was fine, a “walker not a talker”, etc. This is a common story, I have met many people who had the same experience with their pediatrician. Autism is hard to diagnose before age 2 since diagnosis is based on observation of behavior, and some of the behaviors (like speech) don’t really develop until that age anyway.

Looking back there were lots of signs that he had autism, but I overlooked them. One obvious way I could have known is that he never pointed. He didn’t make his needs known with gestures. Babies are supposed to point when they want something, it is one of the first ways they learn to communicate.

I always thought autism had something to do with lack of eye contact. My son always made plenty of eye contact, so of course I figured that meant he didn’t have autism.

Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means that individuals with autism demonstrate similar traits that fall under the diagnosis of  “autism spectrum disorder” but they are also very different. Since it is a spectrum those with autism can be really high functioning and you may not even notice that they are different, and others are low functioning and may have very limited or no verbal skills and may seem very absorbed in their own world. And others are somewhere in between high functioning and low functioning. That is where my son is on the spectrum – somewhere in the middle.

So I am trying to make this short and sweet and to the point the best I can.  But it is hard to sum autism up in a short blog that people actually want to read. So here is an excerpt from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – it’s not short but it’s thorough 🙂 :

Diagnostic Criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder

A.      Persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive, see text):

1.       Deficits in social-emotional reciprocity, ranging, for example, from abnormal social approach and failure of normal back-and-forth conversation; to reduced sharing of interests, emotions, or affect; to failure to initiate or respond to social interactions.

2.       Deficits in nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, ranging, for example, from poorly integrated verbal and nonverbal communication; to abnormalities in eye contact and body language or deficits in understanding and use of gestures; to a total lack of facial expressions and nonverbal communication.

3.       Deficits in developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, ranging, for example, from difficulties adjusting behavior to suit various social contexts; to difficulties in sharing imaginative paly or in making friends; to absence of interest in peers.

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).

B.      Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least two of the following, currently or by history (examples are illustrative, not exhaustive; see text):

1.       Stereotyped or repetitive motor movements, use of objects, or speech (e.g., simple motor stereotypies, lining up toys or flipping objects, echolalia, idiosyncratic phrases).

2.       Insistence on sameness, inflexible adherence to routines, or ritualized patterns or verbal nonverbal behavior (e.g., extreme distress at small changes, difficulties with transitions, rigid thinking patterns, greeting rituals, need to take same route or eat food every day).

3.       Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g, strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interest).

4.       Hyper- or hyporeactivity to sensory input or unusual interests in sensory aspects of the environment (e.g., apparent indifference to pain/temperature, adverse response to specific sounds or textures, excessive smelling or touching of objects, visual fascination with lights or movement).

Specify current severity:

Severity is based on social communication impairments and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior (see Table 2).

C.      Symptoms must be present in the early developmental period (but may not become fully manifest until social demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).

D.      Symptoms cause clinically significant impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of current functioning.

E.       These disturbances are not better explained by intellectual disability (intellectual developmental disorder) or global developmental delay. Intellectual disability and autism spectrum disorder frequently co-occur; to make comorbid diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability, social communication should be below that expected for general developmental level.

Note: Individuals with a well-established DSM-IV diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified should be given the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Individuals who have marked deficits in social communication, but whose symptoms do not otherwise meet criteria for autism spectrum disorder, should be evaluated for social (pragmatic) communication disorder.

Specify if:
With or without accompanying intellectual impairment
With or without accompanying language impairment
Associated with a known medical or genetic condition or environmental factor
(Coding note: Use additional code to identify the associated medical or genetic condition.)
Associated with another neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder
(Coding note: Use additional code[s] to identify the associated neurodevelopmental, mental, or behavioral disorder[s].)
With catatonia (refer to the criteria for catatonia associated with another mental disorder, pp. 119-120, for definition) (Coding note: Use additional code 293.89 [F06.1] catatonia associated with autism spectrum disorder to indicate the presence of the comorbid catatonia.)

Table 2  Severity levels for autism spectrum disorder

Severity level Social communication Restricted, repetitive behaviors
Level 3
“Requiring very substantial support”
Severe deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills cause severe impairments in functioning, very limited initiation of social interactions, and minimal response to social overtures from others. For example, a person with few words of intelligible speech who rarely initiates interaction and, when he or she does, makes unusual approaches to meet needs only and responds to only very direct social approaches
Inflexibility of behavior, extreme difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors markedly interfere with functioning in all spheres. Great distress/difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 2
“Requiring substantial support”
Marked deficits in verbal and nonverbal social communication skills; social impairments apparent even with supports in place; limited initiation of social interactions; and reduced or  abnormal responses to social overtures from others. For example, a person who speaks simple sentences, whose interaction is limited  to narrow special interests, and how has markedly odd nonverbal communication.
Inflexibility of behavior, difficulty coping with change, or other restricted/repetitive behaviors appear frequently enough to be obvious to the casual observer and interfere with functioning in  a variety of contexts. Distress and/or difficulty changing focus or action.
Level 1
“Requiring support”
Without supports in place, deficits in social communication cause noticeable impairments. Difficulty initiating social interactions, and clear examples of atypical or unsuccessful response to social overtures of others. May appear to have decreased interest in social interactions. For example, a person who is able to speak in full sentences and engages in communication but whose to- and-fro conversation with others fails, and whose attempts to make friends are odd and typically unsuccessful.
Inflexibility of behavior causes significant interference with functioning in one or more contexts. Difficulty switching between activities. Problems of organization and planning hamper independence.

 

 

 

This is  a great movie and really helps explain what autism is – and also how much of a gift it is. It is about Dr. Temple Grandin, a very accomplished woman with autism. She has authored many books, she revolutionized the cattle industry, and she is a college professor. Click here for more info about the movie.

Let’s celebrate what makes us different and accept people for who they are. And always remember the great words of Eustacia Cutler, Dr. Temple Grandin’s mom: “Different … But Not Less.”

For more info about Dr. Temple Grandin click here 🙂

“Do you think his autism was caused by the shots?”


Short answer: Maybe.

Long answer: I think my son was born with autism. I even think he had autism while in the womb. I think autism is a part of who my son is, and I think he has always had autism. In the womb he didn’t kick very much. He moved so little that twice I checked myself into the hospital because I was afraid he had died in there since he never moved.  Also, anytime I would rub my pregnant belly and try to picture who my son was and what type of person he would be I would always picture him at a table with a tutor. I envisioned that he would need extra help, that he would have trouble learning. And at the same time I knew he would be fine, and that we was smart – just different. I don’t know why I had these thoughts – and now I see that I must be psychic.  I will add that to my to do list: work on harnessing my psychic power. 🙂

He was always different. If I had known the early signs of autism it would have been obvious that he had autism. But I had no clue what autism was. And so he wasn’t diagnosed until he was 2 1/2 even though I always knew he was different. So I don’t think my son was born typical then changed, or got a shot and suddenly had autism. I have heard many first hand accounts of that happening though, so I believe it is true and it happens. They basically break it into two categories – early onset and late onset autism.

“There are two types of autism—an early-onset type and a later-onset regressive type—retrospective studies have suggested. When infants have the former, their level of complex babbling, word production, and declarative pointing are lower than those produced by typically developing children at a year or so of age. When infants have the latter, they behave essentially like normally developing infants during the first year or so of life, but by age 2, use significantly fewer words, respond to their names much less often, and look at people much less often than typically developing children do (Psychiatric News, October 7, 2005).” http://pn.psychiatryonline.org/content/42/15/28.1.full

So is it the shots or not?

Well I think you should definitely be educated on what is in the shots. And be aware of how many toxins are in there, the fact that formaldehyde is in the shots. On the CDC website you can read about the ingredients: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pubs/pinkbook/downloads/appendices/B/excipient-table-1.pdf

and on another government website you can read about how formaldehyde is classified as a known carcinogen: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/Risk/formaldehyde

So yeah, I would then think that most rational folk would ask “So why are you injecting us with it?”

So is it the shots or not?

I think it has something to do with toxins in our environment.  And those toxins enter our bodies through the water we drink , the air we breathe, the food we eat, the shots we get, the paint, the plastic, the aluminum, the mercury, etc. I believe what the scientists have found in their research.  I think genetics comes into play because we don’t all react the same to these toxins.  Kind of  like how smoking causes cancer but some people can smoke their whole lives and never get cancer.

Here are some notes I took at an autism conference about this:

“It is believed that autism is 90% genetic. These genes aren’t all bad – sometimes they create genius!

Autism seems to be caused by a group of genes all acting together to create autism. These genes are called the “Broader Autistic Phenotype”. Evidence of this can be found in family members of the affected child. They tend to have ADHD, social deficits, and depression. So autism is the collaboration of all of these genes working together to create autism.”

So basically I think, and science seems to be proving, that autism is genetic and those with autism have a predisposition to being affected by these toxins. So in a roundabout way – yes, the shots can be causing autism. Just as much as the water, and the food, and the plastics, and the bug spray, and the fertilizers, etc.

Do I vaccinate my kids? Not anymore. They’ve already had all of the shots that I was required to have. They both have the “religious exemption” and I know what all the nay sayers say — but look at the vaccine requirements when we were kids vs today– why do they have to get so many compared to when we were kids? Requiring two chickenpox (varicella) shots in order to start kindergarten is where I drew the line.

Comparison of CDC Mandatory Vaccine Schedule
Children birth to six years (recommended month)

USA 1983

DTP (2)
OPV (2)
DTP (4)
OPV (4)
DTP (6)
MMR (15)
DTP (18)
OPV (18)
DTP (48)
OPV (48)

USA 2008

Influenza
(prenatal)
Hep B (birth)
Hep B (1)
DTaP (2)
Hib (2)
IPV (2)
PCV (2)
Rotavrus (2)
Hep B (4)
DTaP (4)
Hib (4)
IPV (4)
PCV (4)
Rotavirus (4)
Hep B (6)
DTaP (6)
Hib (6)
IPV (6)
PCV (6)
Influenza (6)
Rotavirus (6)
Hib (12)
MMR (12)
Varicella (12)
PCV (12)
Hep A (12)
DTaP (15)
Hep A (18)
Influenza (18)
Influenza (30)
Influenza (42)
MMR (48)
DTaP (48)
IPV (48)
Influenza (54)
Influenza (66)

Too many, too soon?

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