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What it's like to raise up a child with autism

January 13, 2013, 8:27 pm | This story has an Influence Score of 2168

By kareezafelarca

Autism is a disorder of brain development and is characterized by impaired social interaction and communication. A person with autism can have difficulties in verbal and nonverbal communication, social interaction and repetitive behaviors. Studies show that autism is four times more likely to affect boys than girls. Most cases of autism are considered “idiopathic” meaning without known cause. Scientists are unsure if genes and environmental factors are involved in autism. There is a theory in late 1990's saying that vaccines can cause autism, but it has been disproven by studies conducted around the world.

Carl is a 14 year old boy with autism. He was 2 years old when his mother noticed his unusual behaviors. Carl seemed to be hypersensitive to lights and sounds. He would rarely make eye contact and seemed to have his ‘own world’. He did not seem to know how to play with his toys. There were times when he didn’t even bother to respond to people who were trying to play with him. He often had tantrums and would scream and cry for no apparent reasons. Mary was clueless about her child’s behavior. Carl is her third child and his strange actions were completely different compared to his older brothers when they were his age.

Mary was bothered and had decided to have her son checked by a specialist. The doctor saw signs of autism after a series of tests. It was the most painful and frightening event for Mary and the rest of the family. Mary painfully wondered the cause of Carl’s autism. She was afraid that it might had been something that she did or didn’t do before, during and after her pregnancy. She couldn’t help but blame herself for her son’s disorder.

Mary had wished to bring her son to a school for special children. The sad truth was they didn’t have enough money to support Carl’s special education. The whole family felt hopeless for their precious one and had wished that they could do something to help him live a normal and brighter future.

Mary educated herself about the other treatment options for Carl. She came across conflicting recommendations from different parents and doctors. Not everything worked for her son. She later realized that each person on the autism spectrum is unique, and another’s treatment might not work for everyone. She knew her child best and she was ultimately the most-suited person to come up with the best approach for this special child. Mary tailored her approach to Carl’s individual needs. She focused on how to help her son grow and develop his unique and unexplored abilities. Mary did her best and taught her son at home. She bought him books, flashcards and toys to stimulate his brain development.

Mary also tried to understand her son's nonverbal cues to communicate. The tantrums of children with autism can be a result of their failure to be understood. It may also mean that they are frustrated of the things that they can’t do or can't have. Mary taught herself on how to figure out the things that would trigger her special child to have a disruptive behavior. She tried to be more observant and looked for Carl’s nonverbal cues. Mary paid attention to the sounds, gestures and facial expressions of Carl.

Carl often had trouble in understanding his boundaries. Carl had a routine of playing loud music as early as 4:00 AM that would wake up the whole family. Mary did not tolerate such behavior. Mary bought him a portable cd player with headphone so that he could still listen to music as loud as he would like without disturbing other people. She also rehearsed Carl to follow a schedule of sleeping and waking up. Carl had a hard time following the 'rules'. He would usually throw tantrums when he could not understand why he couldn’t have or do something. Mary tried to ignore some of these tantrums so that she would not reward her son’s negative behavior with attention. Mary would pretend that she didn’t see her son’s tantrums. Mary would discreetly watch her son from afar to make sure that he would not hurt himself. When Carl’s tantrum had ceased, she would immediately come to him to give a loving and soothing hug. Mary would then try to take Carl’s mind away from the things that he was upset about.

Mary maintained a positive outlook on Carl’s condition. She embraced her son’s special quirks and made sure that Carl would feel her unconditional love and acceptance. Mary prayed for patience and diligence.

Children with autism are all unique. They have exceptional abilities in music, academic or visual skills. When Mary figured out her son’s strong desire and interest in music, she then exerted more time and effort to help him unleash that special skill. Humming and singing became their favorite hobby.  Carl wasn’t able to pronounce the words correctly but his tone and pacing were almost perfect. Mary then realized why her son loved to play loud music most of the time. Music was her son's special gift. It was his passion.

Mary had seen how Carl slowly developed his skills. Carl learned how to teach himself with the magnetic alphabet board, books, flashcards and toys that were bought for him by his mother.

Carl was about 10 years old when he learned how to write letters of the alphabet. Carl found it boring to scribble on a piece of paper. He would usually write and draw things on the wall that would leave Mary irritated and helpless at times. Repainting the wall was not an option because Carl would continue to draw on it. Mary had decided to just leave it as is and allowed her child to learn things his way.

Carl also loved watching music videos and TV commercials on youtube. Mary was amazed of how Carl would find his way to search for songs and videos that he’d like to watch. Carl also loved to draw various shapes on the computer using MS Paint.

Mary was very thankful to see that her son was slowly developing his cognitive skills. Mary loved to celebrate these little successes with her son.

Years went by and Carl grew to be a handsome and sweet boy. He is turning 15 years old this year and Mary is happy to see that Carl continues to improve cognitively, kinesthetically, emotionally, socially and psychologically. As of the moment, Carl can draw shapes and manipulate MP3s on the computer. He can read the alphabet, utter functional words and show affection. He rarely goes on tantrums now.

Mary thought that Carl’s lack of formal education would hinder him to learn the things that he ought to. Being her son's personal teacher and therapist was one of the best decisions that she had made. Mary was happy to see positive and rewarding outcome from all her sacrifices. Mary dedicates her whole life to make sure that her son will feel that he'll always be surrounded with a family who will understand, respect, appreciate and love him unconditionally.


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