There has been a lot of talk about what Michael Savage said about autistic children. I didn’t hear the piece live and so I won’t judge the piece. ESPN did a follow-up on "J-Mac" the boy who played in the final basketball game of his senior year and scored 20 or so points in the last couple of minutes. "J-Mac" is now a speaker and touring the country to tout what autistic children can do. As a parent of an autistic child I thought I would share what some of the challenges and opportunities are.
Our oldest son is high-functioning autistic. We first noticed certain characteristics that didn’t fit in with the other children his age. The biggest clue was the quick mood swing from happy to angry. He would go into a rage over simple things. So we began to see what things set him off. We soon found it was things like a change in schedule or moving something that he had placed in a specific spot.
This is where the battle began. We searched for help and luckily my job allowed us to see specialists. The first one, I’m sad to report, didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong outside of behavior issues that could be handled by good parenting. However, we stayed true to the course and moved on to a second specialist. This one opened our eyes to our son’s behavior that showed he has autism. He showed us for instance that our son didn’t play with toys except to line them up. Lining up toys is a classic symptom of Autism. Needless to say we were depressed. Our son, our first child has an affliction that we can’t cure in a short period of time and maybe not at all.
The diagnosis however allowed us to get him help. We now have workers helping him every day. It’s still a lot of work as a parent though. He still has moments of rage and needs help calming down. He also has other behavior issues that we deal with. The one thing I have to say is that it is worth it. It’s definitely not easy, but when he tells us we are the best parents in the world or says that he loves us we know it’s working.
Our son is mainstreamed. This means that he goes to school with other kids his age just like everyone else. There are things he needs help with (reading and math for instance). This year however we are sending him to a new school that will not pull him out for that help. We are so looking forward to this year to see him progress.
Autism is a real affliction. We are lucky that our son is high-functioning. There are others who are not. Each of us as parents of Autistic children has challenges and opportunities. Again, it’s not easy, but it is so worth it.