Friday, April 2, 2010

A personal Friday Five

I hope that you will excuse this slight divergence from our normal Friday Five as I share a personal story about today with you.

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and I am wearing light blue. I have always been a big supporter of this important cause but it takes on a new, personal meaning for me this year. Only a few short months ago my 8 year old son was diagnosed with Autism spectrum disorders, specifically Aspergers. I wear blue today for him.

Since he was young I always knew that something was... different. (It's hard to find a term to use there.) His anxiety level was through the roof all the time and he was a very structured child who could not handle any changes that he was not notified ahead of time. Any degree of spontaneity in our lives was washed away to prevent melt downs and panic attacks.

The diagnosis a month ago did not surprise me but it still left me a little numb for a few days. After years of seeing doctor after doctor only to have them say they are not sure what it was... enduring tests, scans, and blood work to rule other things out... a name was a blessing in disguise. A name has given us power over this invisible force that has been in control of much of our lives, it has allowed us to get education, treatment, support, and peace of mind that we had been lacking before.

Today is also an important day in my home because it is Good Friday and the beginning of Easter weekend. As professing Christians we know that it is because of this weekend that we have a hope and a future... it is for this same reason that I know that God has a special and unique plan in mind just for my son and he was PERFECTLY created to fit that plan.

I do not claim to know it all when it comes to this new force in our life. I am learning all I can about Aspergers and the different ways that we can incooperate it into our lives. However, I have learned five things that seem to really help my son cope... and they all involve organization and routine.

1. He wants to know the plan. All kids thrive on structure but I am learning that kids on the spectrum are especially fond of it. I make a point to tell the entire family each morning what our game plan is for the day and I try very hard to stick to that plan.

2. He wants everything to have a home. Homeless items cause clutter and clutter stresses my son out. (He is his mother's son after all). I have seen this be especially true of his belongings, he wants to be able to find what he wants when he wants it, if he can't he gets very anxious and upset. We have created a place for everything in his room.

3. He is very visual. If he can't see something than it does not exist so I use clear tubs to organize his room and he has a table where he is allowed to spread things out.... it is currently full of pieces to a disassemble VCR that he has been taking apart a little at a time. I recognize his organizing style and try to accommodate it versus fight it.

4. He gets anxious when we are in a loud room or a busy place. I have learned to pack him quite activities that will refocus his attention when we have to be in a place like this. I keep this "quiet bag" in the car at all times so I can grasp it anytime he needs it.
5. He struggles with the concept of time. Instead of telling him that he has only five min. to pick up I play two songs on the CD player and let him know that this equals about five min of time. I try to use cues like this often instead of ONLY telling him time amounts so that he is building a realistic view of time instead of a more abstract one.

Today I am celebrating World Autism Awareness day for my son, my nephew, and the millions of other children that are also affected with this condition. These kids are amazing, unique, and unbelievably talented and I am honored to have such a special kid in my house! He challenges me everyday to be a better mom and a better organizer by making me think outside the box on a regular basis.

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