Notes from the Land of Gonzo - I hate being Autistic
Those are the words I heard on Friday from Michelle after she had come home from school. She had been bullied and called a retard by some kids at school. Kids do that. They torment each other, call each other names - it is right? Of course it isn't - but like or not bullying is part of growing up. I let Michelle tell me about the nasty kids that were calling her names. That's the point she was telling me about it. Capable of expressing her anger and telling me she hated having Autism. Yes I know where she is coming from there. I have my own battles at times with my ASD when it decides I should be a wierdo for a day or two (or months!) - oh no it won't be. Usually I find that happens to me when I'm under a great deal of stress. I'll shut myself down for a few days (or months) - and go into one of those damned Autistic cycles I talked about in my last Notes post.
Michelle is just a little girl of ten and yet she is recognising and able to express her emotions. I remember the long long repetitive months of drawing happy face, mad face and sad face and explaining with different pictures cut out of magazines what the person in the picture was feeling. Hard work has paid off - but now Michelle faces a different challenge. Next year she will attend Otamatea High School - that will be tough. Yet another change. I've deliberately over the years thrown Michelle into all kinds of different situations. Sometimes she would completely lose it - but I would make her stay there. Sounds wrong, hard and cruel - but protecting her from the world will not help Michelle cope with different situations as an adult.
I remember her fear of the vacuum cleaner. She used to call it the monster and go and hide in the wardrobe. One day I decided to get Michelle to stand with me and hold 'the monster' and then she had control. It took a few sessions but in the end I cured Michelle of that fear. I have my own concerns about Michelle attending the High School. She has missed out for an entire year on any help from Special Education because she is doing too well. That somehow seems wrong to me - she needs that support and instead she is being penalised because her mother cared enough to bother seeing if she could help her youngest child overcome rather than put up with her Autism. We have an entire family worth of wierdos - Mum included. Genetics saw to that.
My kids are bright, highly intelligent and affected in varying degrees by ASD. My two elder girls while not diagnosed exhibit typical Asperger's traits. Inaya is overall bright, well adjusted but she suffers from some co-ordination issues, the grasping of some concepts and also suffers from severe depression. With her father remarrying a few years ago - it also meant a new step sister the same age. Unfortunately the step sister wasn't exactly the perfect sister at all. She bullied Inaya over a long term period and over time I noticed my happy bubbly girl was no longer happy. I had her in therapy for two years and Michelle as well. Michelle is still having therapy and I'm having my challenges with her over changing her clothes and brushing her hair each day. Not easy but I make her do it ASD or no ASD there is no excuse. And that's the thing. Regardless kids have to do those things and they have to learn to do things for themselves. ASD kids are all wonderful unique individuals and each and every one of them has the potential to be an incredible human being regardless of their apparent 'disadvantages'. Yes we know it's for life - so what? Yes it can be overcome - no it can't be 'cured' and it's a gift as well. I think a lot of those I know who have kids with ASD or have it themselves would agree there. But life? We can't protect ourselves or our kids forever from the world. The world won't be going away any time soon and out there are cruel heartless people. Learning to deal with them takes time and experience - but it's also a wonderful place too. Just a word of advice introduce your kids and yourself to the world even if it's very slowly - as parents we owe it to ourselves and to our kids to do that. Hiding away is never a solution - go on give it a try.