December 4, 2012
I am an educator, by “trade”. Although I haven’t taught (for a paycheck) in ten years, I still think like an educator, and notice certain behaviors for which I was trained. And, ever since our third child was about 2 1/2 years old, I started noticing some things. He started crying often. He would not smile for pictures any more. He hid under tables when we went to restaurants or weddings. And he started making sound effects–noises that I associated with autism. I told my husband that I suspected that our little guy was a touch autistic. He immediately went into denial-mode, so I reassured him–it was very mild, and in a “little genius” way (he had the alphabet [not just the "song", but recognizing the letters and knowing their sounds] and counting to 100 memorized, he could mimic anyone and anything [I envisioned him doing impersonations for a living, lol--he has quite a talent for it!], he likely has a photographic memory)–he was fully functional and would be fine.
But my husband refused to consider it. So, I did what I felt I needed to do– I started modifying for our son. Depending upon the situation, I either communicated clearly beforehand, or said nothing at all. Doctor’s visit? Lots of pep-talking on how things were going to happen. Library? He had the freedom of movement during story time~we encouraged him to sit, but many times he was running laps around the room while the stories were being read, and would retell various parts, word for word, on the way home. Haircut? Not a word until we arrived. I had to anticipate his reaction, and be sure that he did not have enough time to develop anxiety about what was impending–because anxiety meant a public meltdown. Routine was and is extremely important.
As he got older, I modified for every issue, whether potty-training (he was almost 4), or learning to write (7 years). I am grateful to my husband that I have been able to homeschool, because these things were not the hard-core issues that they could have been for us–we simply waited, and when I could tell he was ready, we tackled each thing–and he adapted very easily. I was going to wait on reading, but at 6, he approached me–and after 2 days, he was reading to his grandmothers on the telephone. Every once in a while, I would try to talk to my husband about our son. His response was usually, “Lion* is Lion”, and that was the end of the conversation.
So, I started talking to my friends and family. Because pedagogy and learning styles are two of my favorite things to discuss and observe, I would talk about the interesting ways that Lion would interpret something, and that would almost always lead to a discussion where I would voice my observation that he was mildly autistic, and likely Aspbergers. Most of these conversations were simply me thinking out loud. I felt no need to have him tested or labelled~with or without my husband’s support. I was modifying for him the way I had modified for many past students, and all was well. Eventually, I gave up on trying to convince my husband of what I knew.
When Lion was 6, I had our fifth son, and two months later my ears started ringing (as they continue to ring today–it can drive me crazy some days, but the side effects of the meds are not for me!), and we went to the medical center in downtown Houston for a hearing test (passed with flying colors). I noticed a little boy in the waiting room almost immediately–he was distinctly autistic. My husband waited with our newborn while I had my exam and test, then we headed to the parking garage. As we were getting situated in the car, my husband tentatively asked, “Did you see that little boy in the waiting room?” I answered yes. He said, “Some of the noises he was making…sound like the noises Lion makes.” I could only look at him… Then, I started, “David, I have tried to tell you…”, but he was already shaking his head negatively. I laughed, and asked him, “Why are you being so “1970s” about this?!” (to be continued)