Tuesday, November 20, 2007

What You Didn't Know About Autism

There is inspiration out there in the world. For every hardship, there's someone who has proven that it can be overcome. For every disability or difference, there is someone who proves that those differences can be managed and coped with.

If you've read my blog over the past couple of years, you might be familiar with the journey that we've been on in discovering Grace's Asperger's Disorder aka Asperger's Syndrome. Briefly put, it is a disorder found on the Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and has it's own spectrum within itself as well. Typically, Aspies appear shy and socially awkward. They very often enjoy spending time alone. They may and do show other signs of autism, such as arm flapping when upset, obsessive attention to specific thoughts or objects, excessive emotional responses or responses that aren't appropriate to a particular situation, and many more.

Many Aspies engage in sensory seeking behavior. For Grace, that could mean playing in sand, water, or with finger paints and clay to satisfy the need to feel different textures. Most kids do that, right? But do most kids eat hot spicy foods even if they don't like it? Grace will eat super-hot salsa or jabanero peppers because of the heat. If it makes her tear up, so much the better. She will also drink straight, plain lemon juice, not because she likes it, but because it's an intense flavor that gives her a physical reaction. When she's upset, one trick to calming her down is finding a fabric on a toy or blanket that is soft and gentle and feels good, like a cloud, and asking her to focus on it. More often than not, it works!

Much of the time, Asperger's Disorder pairs with a diagnosis of Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). That's a very generic term that essentially means "social, learning, and motor delays are present and significant."

Aspies have a much higher likelihood than other ASD's individuals to respond to therapies and treatments that are aimed to help teach them to cope with the world and help tailor their education so that their delays are worked through and hopefully eliminated. Through hard work, therapy and special services these children very often show no outward signs of their autism by the time they're in middle school.

To further help Grace, we'll soon be having her checked out by a genetecist who will do some basic neurological and genetic tests on her. I believe the goal is to help find out if there's a root cause for the Asperger's in Grace. Honestly, though, I think she just inherited all of the emotional anxieties and other crap from both sides of our family, and in Gracie, it showed up as Asperger's Disorder. I relate very much with a lot of the things Gracie goes through, but I also see certain tendencies in her that I see in other family members. Family members that don't have Asperger's.

I also want to make it very clear that Asperger's and Autism Spectrum Disorders DOES NOT MEAN that there is something wrong with an individual. It means that they think differently than the rest of us. That they have difficulty coping with social interactions and sensory stimuli.

As a parent to a child with Asperger's Disorder, it can be daunting trying to advocate for her and get her the services she needs. We're still in the process of figuring things out and getting special services through the school system, as well as her continued therapy with a child psychiatrist. After her genetic testing, we're hoping that will open the doors for more "play therapy." It can be overwhelming and stressful. Lately there are many more good days than bad, and I can see my daughter making efforts to overcome things that upset her and challenges she has that other children don't.

We have good days, but when we have bad days, they're very very bad. There are different triggers for the tantrum-like episodes, and usually we can predict what will trigger one, but sometimes... we can't. And those days are very difficult, especially if our usual soothing techniques aren't working. The good thing is that Grace does try most times now, because she's becoming aware that she needs help with certain situations. I'm quite proud of her for coming as far as she has.

I do wonder sometimes, and worry about what her future will be like. And then I hear something inspiring, like this and I know that she'll be able to do anything she chooses. These people below had/have uatistic traits including Asperger's Disorder.

Historical famous people
Jane Austen, 1775-1817, English novelist, author of Pride and Prejudice (see above)
Béla Bartók, 1881-1945, Hungarian composer
Ludwig van Beethoven, 1770-1827, German/Viennese composer
AMENDED Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
Anton Bruckner, 1824-1896, Austrian composer
Henry Cavendish, 1731-1810, English/French scientist, discovered the composition of air and water
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, US poet
Thomas Edison, 1847-1931, US inventor
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
Henry Ford, 1863-1947, US industrialist
Kaspar Hauser, c1812-1833, German foundling, portrayed in a film by Werner Herzog
Oliver Heaviside, 1850-1925, English physicist
Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1826, US politician
NEW Carl Jung, 1875-1961, Swiss psychoanalyst
Franz Kafka, 1883-1924, Czech writer
Wasily Kandinsky, 1866-1944, Russian/French painter
H P Lovecraft, 1890-1937, US writer
Ludwig II, 1845-1886, King of Bavaria
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
NEW Gustav Mahler, 1860-1911, Czech/Austrian composer
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756-1791, Austrian composer
Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1844-1900, German philosopher
Bertrand Russell, 1872-1970, British logician
George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright, writer of Pygmalion (see above), critic and Socialist
Richard Strauss, 1864-1949, German composer
Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors
Henry Thoreau, 1817-1862, US writer
Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
Mark Twain, 1835-1910, US humorist
Vincent Van Gogh, 1853-1890, Dutch painter
Ludwig Wittgenstein, 1889-1951, Viennese/English logician and philosopher

Historical people prominent in the late twentieth century (died after 1975)
Isaac Asimov, 1920-1992, Russian/US writer on science and of science fiction, author of Bicentennial Man (see above)
Hans Asperger, 1906-1980, Austrian paediatric doctor after whom Asperger's Syndrome is named
John Denver, 1943-1997, US musician
Glenn Gould, 1932-1982, Canadian pianist
Jim Henson, 1936-1990, creator of the Muppets, US puppeteer, writer, producer, director, composer
Alfred Hitchcock, 1899-1980, English/American film director
NEARLY NEW Howard Hughes, 1905-1976, US billionaire
Andy Kaufman, 1949-1984, US comedian, subject of the film Man on the Moon
L S Lowry, 1887-1976, English painter of "matchstick men"
Charles Schulz, 1922-2000, US cartoonist and creator of Peanuts and Charlie Brown
Andy Warhol, 1928-1987, US artist

Contemporary famous people
Woody Allen
, 1935-, US comedian, actor, writer, director, producer, jazz clarinettist
Tony Benn, 1925-, English Labour politician
Bob Dylan, 1941-, US singer-songwriter
Joseph Erber, 1985-, young English composer/musician who has Asperger's Syndrome, subject of a BBC TV documentary
Bobby Fischer, 1943-, US chess champion
Bill Gates, 1955-, US global monopolist
Genie, 1957-?, US "wild child" (see also L'Enfant Sauvage, Victor, above)
Crispin Glover, 1964-, US actor
Al Gore, 1948-, former US Vice President and presidential candidate
Jeff Greenfield, 1943-, US political analyst/speechwriter, a political wonk
David Helfgott, 1947-, Australian pianist, subject of the film Shine
Michael Jackson, 1958-, US singer
Garrison Keillor, 1942-, US writer, humorist and host of Prairie Home Companion
Kevin Mitnick, 1963-, US "hacker"
John Motson, 1945-, English sports commentator
NEW John Nash, 1928-, US mathematician (portrayed by Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind, USA 2001)
Keith Olbermann, 1959-, US sportscaster
Michael Palin, 1943-, English comedian and presenter
Keanu Reeves, 1964-, Lebanese/Canadian/US actor
Oliver Sacks, 1933-, UK/US neurologist, author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Awakenings
James Taylor, 1948-, US singer/songwriter

1 comment:

Dreen Pie said...

what is amazing is, most of the people on this list are considered the geniuses of our time.