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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Friday, April 18, 2008


Precious Growth

As many of you know, Adam is really taking to typing. In two months, the typing has also instigated more talking in full sentences. It's as if I've offered him a window and now the floodgates are opening.

Let me begin by also saying that last week, Adam grabbed his own device in school and for the first time ever, asked for his father -- "daddy," he typed. He was asked again if he wanted daddy, and he typed that he did.

His magnificent shadow -- a young woman who has been with us for four years now -- told him that daddy could not be there and he was at work. She suggested that he instead draw a picture for daddy. Adam has drawn pictures before. Sometimes he writes mommy on them (well, he did once anyway), and he has definitely asked and typed for mommy a few times, but he has never drawn a picture for me without the bidding of some teacher's project.

Adam has never asked for daddy before and I wonder if it's because I've been in bed recuperating, and dad has had to step in with Adam a little more, that Adam has truly relished it. So, completely unaided, Adam did the drawing below for daddy -- he wrote his name, daddy's name, car, and drew his rendition of a car.

Needless to say, this picture is being treated delicately like an old Leonardo da Vinci drawing -- so light and delicate is Adam's hand that you can see his struggle for control -- which is why we're grateful for typing devices. If you saw him write letters by hand, you would also see his steely determination with the gargantuan challenge. This work of art will be well preserved, framed and displayed in an area for all to see in our home.

So a few things are happening in my mind these days about Adam, typing, communication and expression, and I wonder if many parents of non verbal children, or whose child's expression is delayed in various ways, feel it too.

First, there is a burst of language in sentences coming out of Adam as a result of starting our typing together. It's still not always clear, mind you, but he's talking more. It seems to have sparked something in Adam -- something that was already there, but perhaps didn't have the courage or know-how to come out, and it simply needed the little push. Think of it like opening a window in a room swirling with words, letters and thoughts, growing by the minute. That's how I like to think of it and the rate at which Adam learns.

Second, his drive to do that picture for his father completely on his own, I believe, also has to do with this window-opening as well as his need for relationship with his father, and just turning six and saying some very interesting boy-things, he needs a male role-model in his life.

And third, as a result of this new form of expression for us in this family, there are questions I have of myself as his mother -- the mother of a son first, a child second, and an autistic child, third.

This very intelligent little boy, with so many thoughts and conceptions of himself in the world, and IN RELATION TO THE WORLD, while I knew were always there without spoken language, has suddenly manifested in so many typed views of himself. It's not quite like having a child who is natural with spoken language -- the precocious little talker who always asks "why?" At least a parent gets a sense early on of the depth of responsibility in holding a child's ego like an egg in one's hand. Maybe (I can't say as I am the mother of one child and a step-mother to four whose own mother served them well), a parent just gets sort of immune to the child's ego. Maybe they learn ignore some of the precocious talking. Maybe they know when something serious is being said, and when something said is just an experiment.

For Adam, I believe that the same thing has happened and has always been happening, even before the typing. In some ways, it bothers me because Adam's ego and his thoughts and his way of thinking of himself in the world has always been there. All of those things I just mentioned, have always been there. His sense and ability to see people and know them -- like the child in the Emperor Has No Clothes -- has always been there. Yet, like many autistic people, he has been treated by many people (not all, thankfully, but many) that he never had the ability or capacity for such thought, such depth, such relationships.

My Adam, who notices how boys "should" behave and how he is "different", well -- tell me please -- how do you hold that precious little ego as it grows by leaps and bounds in your hand?


Anonymous Adi said...

I think you're holding that ego just fine, with your acceptance, understanding and love. I don't think the autistic kid notice (at first) that they are different from others, just that sometimes he may be, for some unknown reason, not part of them and their groupings. And I guess that is the next big leap one day: engaging other kids to accept, understand and love.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have been reading your blog for the last two years and I must tell you that you have helped me so much with understanding my six year old autistic son it is so unreal that i can get from a total stranger the understanding, encouragement, drive, and appreciation I cannot seem to find in my family. You have given me so much more confidence in knowing when Chase is making leaps and bounds rather than thinking my mind is playing tricks on me. It took two years for me to come out of denial regarding his autism and youR blog helped with that. THANK YOU AND ADAM

3:11 PM  
Blogger kristina said...

Not so much an answer as a comment about boys: Charlie has been surrounded by women for most of his life, as teachers, instructors, aides, speech therapists, OTs, etc., tend to be female. About 2 years ago, Charlie started to have a male aide in his classes regularly and a male therapist at home, and it's been clear that he really enjoys their company----Charlie likes to be physical and "roughhouse" and there is (it seems to me) a different way that guy therapists express their concern and try to help him through anxious moments, than do women. (I often suspect that the numerous female teachers etc. in Charlis's life are somehow inevitably connected with me. And it seems that Adam definitely is noting these sorts of differences and appreciating them.

I rather suspect that much of Adam's typing and drawing and writing get the "Leonardo treatment" on a regular basis----surely that is helping to nurture that precious ego!

3:46 PM  
Blogger farmwifetwo said...

I've never told them they are different. Even the eldest has no clue, except there's more one to 1:1 activities at school and different camps but it's always been that way... I've never made it an issue.

He does VERY well with his Male teachers (homeroom, hoping for the same next year). B/c the Female (who do most of the 1:1) think he's CUTE and now I have behavioural problems at home which I think are being fed by this attitude. And the list goes on... been a long mth of "autism/school/meds/testing" stuff.

His little bro just thinks he's a little boy who goes to school and comes home. He doesn't care that he uses different means (writing with symbols) to learn the same material.

I plan to keep it as long as I can. My boys are very accepting of all.

6:23 AM  
Blogger Jen said...

I think that the most important thing that you can do for Adam is to keep on loving and valuing him, and having him work with "good" people who do the same. I think that giving him a cocoon of love and acceptance will give him some of the security that will help him to deal with non-acceptance later on if he happens to run into it.

I found your comment about ignoring the precocious comments interesting- I found that for a while I was over-praising my children for things that quickly became routine for them, which I don't think was the best course of action from them. But when you're trained in reinforcement for a very long time, it's hard not to over-do it sometimes :-)

Kristina's comment about male therapists also resonates with me- my son Dylan has a mixture of male and female workers at his group home, and it's incredible how well he responds to men. His female workers are just as competent, but given a choice, he would much rather be with men now. That didn't really manifest itself until he was about 8 in his case, but I've also found (huge generalization here), that the male workers and teachers in his life seem to have a more innate sense that he's just a kid, and treat him first as a 12 year old boy and then as an autistic young man.

I'm glad that Adam's doing so well- I love spring! I swear that my kids make more progress these four months of the year than in the rest of the year combined!

7:39 AM  
Blogger abfh said...

In my family, it has been very helpful for the autistic boys to spend enough time with men so that they can learn the "game" of male teasing. A boy who doesn't understand how to respond to trash-talking with the usual socially scripted insults, and who doesn't understand that such stuff should not be taken seriously, is at high risk of becoming a victim of bullying.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love spring, too! and emergence and discovery, especially discovering of things that have always been there.

that is a beautiful drawing. fluffy's letters and drawings are precious and rare and come at great effort.

7:33 PM  

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