Sunday, April 22, 2007

One Family's Story

April is the official month for Autism awareness….meaning those who are in the on-going fight to cure it or love someone who has it, want to make the whole world “aware” of the difficulties that people with autism experience.
Well, I’m a mom with two boys with autism and no, I’m not going to donate to the cause this month….I “donate” (emotionally and financially) on a daily basis anyway….and I’m not going to campaign for a cure….we as a family have been dealing with autism for 14 yrs.
Now, I’m not saying “Don’t find a cure…..I love my kids just the way they are”. I do love my boys, and yes, they will have some challenges to overcome in life. But, I still struggle with the chemical, environmental vs. genetic predisposition battle that seems to be the crux to finding that cure.
In the meantime, as any parent will do, I will accept my boys’ challenges and guide them through life’s puzzle. And autism is a puzzle. As the doctors and research describes it, there is a “Spectrum”, or a line with degrees of autism. On one end you have the child who cannot talk and rolls himself up in a ball for security and on the other you have Asperger’s syndrome.

Asperger’s is the diagnosis my youngest boy has been given. Ben is 11 and up until last year, he has had the diagnosis of severe ADHD with emotional difficulties. Those “emotional difficulties”
along with the ADHD have made it difficult for him in a traditional school setting, so this year, along with his brother, I’m home-schooling the boys. Remember, I mentioned that I “give” on a daily basis!
Ben is a very bright child (as most kids with Asperger’s are) he has difficulty with peer relationships and tends to play with kids younger than himself….he feels more comfortable because he doesn’t always “get’ the social cues of his peers.
Ben’s “brightness” doesn’t always translate well on paper and on tests….so, with home school we don’t have to stick to the conventional ways of testing what he’s learned.

My older son, Ethan (14), is diagnosed with high-functioning autism. And being the older of the two, his road to Autism has been a bit bumpy. As our first child, and as parents without a clue, we had such difficulty with his behavior when he was younger. He would not respond to discipline and because he was so easily over-stimulated, he would have frequent meltdowns in public places.
Ethan still experiences over-stimulation, but as he has grown, he has learned some coping skills. However, some of the things that allow him to feel secure, seem strange to his peers. such as, flapping his arms and hands and repeating words to himself over and over. He has learning disabilities that require an I.E.P. and Special Ed. instruction.,. as well as weekly Speech and social interaction group (Ben will be attending one of these group too).

So, there you have a little peek into the lives of a family with autism in this month of Autism Awareness. We are slowly putting our pieces of life’s puzzle together and learning a lot about ourselves in the process.


Lana said...

What handsome young men they are! Suzanne, God knew what he was doing when he chose you and your husband as parents. He chose two caring, understanding, wonderful people who will give those boys the love and nurture and upbringing they need for the lives ahead of them. Thank you for educating me about autism and for your willingness to share.

SweetAnnee said...

Suzanne..your boys have a wonderful mom!!
Thanks for sharing the challenges so willingly!
smiles, Deena

Southern Heart said...

Suzanne, I have two internet friends whose children have autism (one has twins), and also a dear friend whose son has Asperger's. You sound like a wonderful mother, and have very handsome sons! I enjoyed hearing about your family.

Love, Andrea

Tweetums said...

The boys look so grown up since last I saw them. I'm excited that you will all be coming up for a visit in July!

It was good to read what you wrote about the boys. It gave me a better insight into the boys' and your lives and helps me to be more understanding to those who have autism and those who have children with autism. I have a friend who has a son and daughter who both have autism. They're delightful kids (as are my cousins). She's homeshooling her son right now and next year plans to homeshool them both. How can I be more of a support to her?

Love to you and your men folk,

sandi @ the whistlestop cafe said...

You do give on a daily basis. My best to you...drop in for a glass of sweet tea when you find the time.

Suzanne said...

Thank you all for your comments. Being "new"to blogging, I wasn't sure how much to share about our family.
But, April being Autism Awareness month seemed like the best time to share our story.

As the title to this post reads...we are just one family embracing autism. A few of you mentioned the families in your lives. Thanks for sharing!

Parenting has it's rewards and challenges for any parent, and I know many other families live with more traumatic and severe challenges. Obviously all parents have at least one BIG thing in common...they love their kids!
Thanks for letting me share mine!


Suzanne said...

Oh, Hannah~

I'm sure you are a great support to your friend, but getting to know her children, helping her out of stores when hers are having meltdowns!, taking her out for "girlfriend" time, all the things you are probably already doing!! are just a few ideas.

Anonymous said...

Hi Suz,
Wow, once again reminded what an amazing woman you and my dear brother are.
Huge hugs to you 4. Looking forward to seeing ya'll in July.
Love to you, Julia