Sunday, November 6, 2011

Living the Day to Day Spectrum of Autism

You’ve probably heard people talking about autism being a spectrum disorder meaning that there’s different “degrees” of symptoms that still fall under the same autism disorder. You’ve probably also heard descriptors like high functioning, low functioning, verbal, nonverbal and so on.  What you may not realize though is that autism can be very much of a spectrum for individuals in terms of day to day life.  Let me use the past week to illustrate….

On Monday Caden had a simply amazing day at school.  He was able to identify the sounds of 6 different letters---this kind of came out of nowhere but rather than analyze the moon and stars that must have aligned to make this happen we’ll just celebrate that it was an amazing breakthrough and hope for more of these kinds of day.  Monday was also significant for Caden in that it was the first Halloween that he has ever wanted to celebrate in the typical fashion—you know pick out a costume, wear the costume, and go door to door “begging” for candy.  He loves his Mario costume and proudly wore it. He was nervous about going door to door until he figured out that he got to ring the doorbell—the doorbells made it all worth it in his world. He still needed his sister standing beside him  and occasionally one of us helped him hold his bag out but he said thank you to each and every person who answered their doorbell—even the woman who thought it would be amusing to answer her door in a butcher’s costume wielding a knife and shouting at the kids to scare them---yep it worked---poor Caden fell off the porch and down three stairs in an attempt to get away from her and honestly Ryley wasn’t far behind looking over her shoulder all the way—seriously who deliberately scares little kids---wait don’t answer that! I think some of the evening’s success can be attributed to a lot of hard work and some of it was most definitely due to the fact that Elf was with him every step of the way—even wearing a Halloween bow AND getting a dog bone at one house!
Wednesday brought equal excitement in that it was his first basketball class at the Y. Caden’s taken gymnastics classes at the Y so this is a place that he anticipates going and he was very excited to be playing basketball just like the books that we have been reading.  He marched into class, got his name sticker, took a basketball, and started practicing.  All was well­­­---until class actually started with the coach blowing a whistle and yelling at everyone to line up (sensory overload in so many fashions).  Caden laid on the floor and covered his head—he quickly went from the “just like everyone else” kid to the one who was obviously different and just not sure how to cope. When you don’t know how to cope, you shut down and that’s just what he did. Thankfully we had some amazing coaches, one in particular is studying adaptive PE, who were able to turn the class around. Caden still had difficulty every time they transitioned but the one-on-one coach helped make those transitions smoother and easier for him.  Unfortunately I’m not sure that we’re going to get the kid interaction that we had hoped for but nothing says we can’t take the class several times or that this week won’t be different.

The end of the week brought a virus and asthma flare-up that left us in the doctor’s office getting a prescription for steroids. The waiting room was a little too much for Caden to deal with so he spent some time under the chair, some time “sitting” face down in the chair, and the rest of the time laying on the floor with his face buried in Elf’s fur.  Very cool moment though---when the nurse called us back she actually called Caden and Elf—how cool is that and Caden definitely was amused. He handled the appointment really well considering how we spent our time in the waiting room but I think the fact that we were in a room toward the back where it was quiet and isolated helped a lot.  He was able to fully cooperate with the doctor during the exam and she didn’t even have to use the “stick” to examine his throat---always a positive according to my daughter.

Throughout the past week sometimes he was able to articulate his thoughts and feelings and other times he simply didn’t have the words or the articulation to say them.  Sometimes he could cope and other times not at all.  This past week was a good reminder for me that we live the spectrum or more accurately Caden does...when I think about the emotional roller coaster that I experienced this past week I can only imagine what it must have been like for him.  I wouldn’t/couldn’t blame him if he just gave up and refused to leave home and yet he’s begging to go to school tomorrow and wanting to know when Wednesday is because that’s basketball day---I know we have a lot to teach him but I can’t even begin to imagine how much more he’s going to teach us in the process.