Genesis 1:27 New Living Translation (NLT)
27 So God created human beings[a] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
April is Autism Awareness Month, but what I propose is let’s change it to Autism Acceptance month! Awareness is okay, but acceptance is what is needed. There are so many autistic individuals that hear ‘there isn’t a cure’ or ‘we don’t know what causes autism’ and for many individuals on the autism spectrum, they don’t want to be cured; they want to be recognized as individuals who have neurological differences and their brains are wired differently, but there isn’t anything wrong with them. And guess what, they’re right.
Tyson is still the same boy we loved before he was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He has had many challenges and he will, most likely, face challenges as he grows older because of the autism, but having this neurological disorder doesn’t make him less than someone without it, it just means he needs extra help.
When Tyson was diagnosed in July of 2016, he was diagnosed as level 2, meaning he would require substantial support. He has made great strides through intensive home and outpatient therapy, preschool and has added ABA to his list of supports. He no longer needs PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) or sign language to communicate as he has found his voice. We are so thankful for and happy for him that he has. Communication is a big component of Autism. Some people are nonverbal indefinitely, other’s use visual supports and sign language or ACC devices to communicate.
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language.
Social cues is another big area where many autistic individuals have a difficult time. Depending on the individual they may learn how to ‘act’ like their peers and try to blend in; for others slang language or sarcasm is totally lost on them and they don’t understand why you can’t say what you mean, instead of ‘beating around the bush.’ Just be straight forward and say it! For Tyson, he is a very social person when he knows the people, but when we are in a waiting room or a store, he tends to hide and shy away from people. Too many people cause him to be afraid or have anxiety. Even places we go all the time, like outpatient speech therapy.
Sensory processing comes into play for a lot of individuals on the Autism Spectrum. Everyone is different. Bright lights, loud noises, the hum of fluorescent lights, hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, lots of people talking in a restaurant, too many people in one place – these are just some of the things people can be overwhelmed by and if they become overstimulated or overloaded, a meltdown may occur.
Meltdowns are totally different than temper tantrums. A temper tantrum is a reaction to not getting something you want and a person throwing a fit looking for a reaction or response to it. A meltdown is a neurological response to overload and they have no control over it happening. A meltdown looks different for every individual.
Stimming is a term that most people don’t understand or understand the reason why many autistic individuals stim. Lots of neurotypical people stim but usually in a more quiet way. For instance, if you are the type of person that gets nervous in a meeting at work, you may tap your foot or click your pen. But most NT people know when to stop. For autistic individuals, stimming is a way to self-soothe when everything becomes too much to handle. Some people flap their hands, jump up and down, spin around, hum, make noises only known to them and their loved ones, dance and the list goes on. For every individual on the spectrum, there are just as many different ways to stim. The only time I have stopped Tyson from any particular stim is if he will hurt himself. Then redirection is necessary.
The one saying that holds true in the Autism community is “If you have met one person with autism, you have met one person with autism.” There are families with multiple people that have autism and not everyone in the family will deal with the same challenges or respond the same way. Each case is individual.
The last thing I want to say about this today is please be aware that parents/grandparents/caregivers of children/adults of autism don’t have all the answers, they have the answers that work for their specific human. And sometime’s they don’t even have those. It is very exhausting to fight a system to get services, some due to long waiting lists or fighting with the insurance company to approve it or finding services that will be approved.
There are many different types of therapies that can help people on the spectrum, but not every person needs every therapy available and not every therapy available helps every person. To date, there are no medications for autism. There are many co-morbid conditions that some people with autism have, such as ADHD or anxiety/depression and there are medications for those; as well as many holistic approaches to help people.
The Lord God created all of us. None of us are exactly alike. All of us are “wired” the way He chose for us to be. Please think about that the next time you meet an individual with who is Autistic.
I know I have only touched on the basics of Autism, but this is only the first of the month.
May you know how much Jesus Loves You! Jesus can turn any mess into a message and any test into a testimony! #HopeAlwaysHave Faith