When the Bump in the Road is Autism

Posted by on Apr 9, 2009 in Articles and Stories by Others, Happiness, Rhonda's Articles | Comments Off on When the Bump in the Road is Autism

picture-2Autism can be a huge bump on the road to happiness, but it need not be a detour. As a care-giver, it certainly takes you on a journey of personal growth.

Have any of you had your life touched in some way by someone with autism, or on the autistic spectrum, including ADHD? Did you know that 1 out of every 60 kids is diagnosed to be on the spectrum?

parkerMy oldest grandson, Parker, who is now 7 has ADHD, and has struggled in school (and at home) as a result. Due to the commitment of his parents and his first grade teacher, he is doing very well. He still has some challenging days, however it is remarkable how much more calm his life is for him and everyone around him due to having him on
what is called the Finegold Diet, free of preservatives, pesticides, dairy and eggs.

Then along comes my second grandson. Although in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit the first 3 days of his life, he seemed to meet all his developmental milestones, although he was always plagued by ear infections and was prescribed antibiotic after antibiotic along the way. However, by about 18 months he started to regress.
What little speech he had began to disappear. He had less and less eye contact and seemed to spend more and more time in his own world.

My background in early childhood education told me that by age 2 he should have at least 20 words, so we stepped out of our denial and began the journey of learning the impact of high levels of mercury and other heavy metals
trapped in his body, and other sensitivities that cloud his brain.

brody-and-tutu1Now Brody in 3 and a half. He has come along way with the help of a gluten free/casien free/dairy free diet, although still has many self-stimulation behaviors. For Brody, his most severe behavior is echolalia. He repeats books that have been read to him or dialogue he has heard only once over and over. He is very bright, can recognize many words but has little understanding of language. Tantrums are a regular indication of him being over-stressed, and the bigger he gets the harder they get. Of all of these it symptoms it seems hardest that Brody cannot spontaneously tell his mom or his dad that he loves them.

We have taken a biomedical approach, and Brody will soon begin I. V chelation therapy. His parents even made the hard decision to short-sale their house that is on the take-off flight path of a major airport to minimize his
exposure to the jet fuel that contains the contaminants that have rained on him since he was born. All of this is calling us to be more mindful of pollution and do what we can to create a more green environment for all our kids.

The other day my daughter showed me an ad in Parent’s Magazine for weighted vests that looks like a fireman’s or a policeman’s uniform. Children with sensory needs often benefit from the added weight to ‘ground’ them. I commented to my daughter how we have normalized this problem. Now in a magazine for typical children, products to deal with sensory issues are becoming mainstream and accepted as normal.

These amazing young people seem to have a divine assignment. They are our canaries in the gold mine if we dare to listen. They are telling us through the oddities of their challenges that our earth is troubled and our abilities to
deeply connect and communicate are in peril. It is not only about what we are here to teach them, but I think even more important to become curious about what they are here to teach us. They are calling us to deepen the quality of
our relationships and fine-tune our ability to see joy in the oddest places. They invite us to make friends not only with technology, but with one another, face to face, heart to heart. They challenge us to look beyond differences
to see our common ground.

Talking about autism is not easy, but once I started to share a bit about the journey of my grandsons, I quickly learned that Donna Roberts, a colleague of mine at Circle Connections, also has a son with autism. Gabe is now 10.

The more willing I became to share about my experiences, the more stories I heard, and I became aware of how commonplace this disorder is.

This is Autism Awareness Month. Let this be the opportunity for you to become a bit more curious about why so many of these kids havethis challenging social/physical/psychological disorder that impedes their ability to connect.

To expand the awareness about autism and to serve these kids and their families touched by autism, Donna Roberts, a colleague at Circle Connections (http://www.circleconnections.com) took a bold and creative step forward. It all started when Donna saw a documentary called “Autism: The Musical” about an acting project
for children with autism. She approached Florida Repertory Theatre about doing a class, and they
said yes.

To read the full story, visit:

http://tinyurl.com/cw8feg.

To read more press about the program, visit:

http://tinyurl.com/da7u6v

And even though I had a very long day cluttered with challenging situation exacerbated by autism, I feel so blessed by my grandchildren just as they are. A lucid, focused moment or a game of tickle are worth three times their weight in gold.

Happiness can be found in the oddest places.

If you have had a hard day, too, and even if you haven’t, I dare you not to smile after watching the following video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vq6b9bMBXpg

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