Remember that each autistic child is different. We cannot just say, "the child has autism" and lump all of those kids into the same group and expect them to react the same way to different circumstances. As with all other children, each autistic child has his/her own personality. Many children that suffer from autism are highly intelligent. It seems that their brains work overtime, yet they don't understand how to communicate what they are thinking. They have a hard time making friends because they don't understand the rules of socializing. Some may be shy, while others are aggressive.
The autism spectrum includes a wide variety of disorders. Some children are "high functioning autistic," as Brandon is. Others are at the low end of the spectrum.
Above is a diagram of the autism spectrum. From what I understand from the research I've done, is that children at the severe end of the spectrum are very easy to identify. Then we come to midsection where autistic traits are more varied. This includes PDD -NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified.) The less severe or high functioning end of the spectrum, which includes Asperger's Syndrome has the largest number of shapes because of the variation in presentation. This is also the end of the spectrum that has the highest density of population that is affected. The area to the extreme right shows where people on the autism spectrum blend into the general population. Since the autism spectrum is so varied, it is impossible to say that a person who has been diagnosed as autistic will have a particular trait or even that he cannot possess other traits.
When Brandon belonged to the bowling league, there was a girl on his team that had Asperger's Syndrome. Yet the difference between her and Brandon was like day and night. She didn't have the meltdowns like Brandon experienced, but she did have the large head. She possessed much different traits than he did. So every individual case of Asperger's Syndrome or autism, for that matter, can be very different.
It is important for us to teach children that are high functioning autistic all of the things that they will need to know to make it on their own in the world. At one time Brandon had no concept of facial expressions or body language. He wouldn't look you directly in the eye. The Vice Principal that I spoke of the other day made him look her in the eye when she talked to him. She encouraged us to do the same. Today we sometimes still have to remind Brandon to look us in the eye when we are talking to him. However, he has made great progress.
My daughter, Michelle, and I played games with Brandon to learn him about facial expressions. We would exaggerate a face, say a smile, and ask him what it meant. We would exaggerate frowns, glares, make sad faces and knit our eyebrows. Then we would ask him what he thought that particular face meant. I would place my hands on my hips and give him a "look." He was eager to learn and today he does understand most body language.
There has been a recent study done and the results are astounding. While there may never be a cure for autism, researchers are working diligently to try to identify why it is becoming more prevelant in today's society. Post mortems of people who suffered from autism have certainly helped and now five genes have been identified as being contributing factors in some cases. To read more, please follow the link to The Brain & Autism. There is also a diagram posted on the site that will give you a better idea of how the brain is affected when autism is present.
Mary asked me today if I knew where she could buy an autism ribbon. There are items for sale that promotes autism awareness.
CafePress - Look near the top of the screen and you will see a search engine. Set it to "all departments" and then type in the word "autism." There are t-shirts, mugs, bumper stickers, sweatshirts, magnets and so much more for sale here. Be sure to click on "more products" under the items and explore the site thoroughly. Brandon's teacher that he had last year in grade six and has again this year for grade seven loved his "I Teach Someone with Autism and I Learn from Him Everyday," coffee mug. Mr. M is a great teacher for Brandon and we have been truly blessed.
I saw a t-shirt there that I told my hubby I just have to get. It says, "I asked God for a blessing and He gave me my autistic grandson." Truer words have never been spoken. When I get it, which won't be for a while, I will post a photo.
Have a great Saturday and remember not to judge those who are different. After all, wouldn't the world be a boring place if we were all the same? ~Blessings, Mary~