As you should all know by now, April is Autism Awareness Month. Having spent three years working closely with children with autism, this is a subject very near to my heart. But I am not a parent of one of these wonderful children. So, no matter how much time I spent with them or how much I love them, I can’t speak to what it is like to be the parent of one and live with it 24/7. Thankfully, the wonderful Debra Kristi, who is the parent of an ASD child, agreed to share with us. I will now hand it over to her.
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Wow! It’s a pleasure to be here at Jessica’s castle of the Sexy Nerd again. I must admit to feeling rather nervous when Jessica first asked me to be a guest for her autism month. You see, my son was diagnosed as a high functioning Asperger late this last year, so the subject is still fairly new to me.
It’s easy for parent’s emotions to get clouded at the time of a new diagnosis such as this, but to be honest, it was a relief to finally make sense of all the outbursts, and uncharacteristic behaviors. For a child of ten it was troubling that he was still having a hard time making friends and becoming extremely anxious over change. By change, I mean things such as a new sports coach, for example. He also wouldn’t hold eye contact for more than thirty seconds nor stay in a conversation that wasn’t one of his choosing. His monologue would go on without ceasing even when the world appeared to be ending for others around him, he’d simply talk right over the crazy. It was maddening. But finally, having something to work with made approaching each situation somehow more doable and less frightening.
We can now better help direct him, as we are more appropriately prepared to help him be a more productive member of society. It takes time and effort, but he can learn to pick up on those social queues that come so naturally to so many of us. People with Aspergers live in a different world than you and me. They see things in their own kind of light. In many ways, it’s rather brilliant and amazing. When the little kids around him were singing “Wheels on the Bus” my son was humming the full orchestration theme to Star Wars or Indiana Jones. When talking to an adult, he will almost always say things that sound years ahead of his age, and come across as considerate and bright. But in dealing with children his own age, that’s where his social skills are lacking and where much of our challenge lies. This last year we saw some vast improvements because we addressed them in new ways.
It used to be that autism cases were 1 in 10,000. But those numbers are rapidly growing. In the 1990’s they had already tripled in California. Aspergers is one of the disorders on the autistic spectrum. It’s a milder form of the condition. While a large percentage of those with other autistic disorders may suffer from mild to severe mental subnormality, Aspergers generally have average – or even very high IQs.
One area where the rates are especially elevated are Santa Clara County. What do you think of when you hear that? Silicon Valley, right? Geek central. Aspergers is becoming known as the engineers disorder. One of the single minded.
As the increase of children born with Aspergers in these areas continues, a reverse diagnosis is taking place. Parents are finding out that they have a milder version of the syndrome. Areas such as Silicon Valley bring together people of like minds that are more likely to already be on the autistic spectrum and are therefore more likely to produce autistic, or Asperger children. Some economic and business areas are prepared for this and have schooling systems in place to meet the families’ needs.
This increase in the autistic and Asperger syndrome is a more recent development with the education of women and their entrance into the computer, educational and programming fields where we see many of these developments taking place as a result of these like types pairing up and starting families. But they are not contained to just these areas. It is wide spread as techie minded and artistic types are in many fields.
Of course environmental factors have not been ruled out and are still being looked into, but it is believed by scientist that genetics does play a part. As to how much, it’s hard to say.
When my son was diagnosed, my family started sending me articles. I jumped on the internet and borrowed books to do my own research. You can imagine how this new knowledge overwhelmed me. But, as it settled in, it started to make sense. Looking back through my family line and what I know of my husband’s, I can see the syndrome playing a part in our bloodlines, mild as it may be, and undiagnosed through all these years. It’s rather fascinating to think about, really.
My son is smart and he is coming along fine. He will do alright in life. His hardest challenge will always be on the social end of things, but he has a support group now to help him see his way. Who knows, he may be one of tomorrow’s brilliant minds. Personally, I hope he develops his amazing art talent. But it’s all up to him. The future is wide open.
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I would like to give a HUGE thank you to Debra for writing this post and sharing this part of her life with us. If you are curious about the subject that Debra brought up and would like to read more, you can check out The Geek Syndrome, published in Wired Magazine.
Debra Kristi lives with her husband, two active children, and one White’s Tree Frog. She is currently working on her first Young Adult Fantasy novel, but has many more stories to share. She holds a degree in Operations Management and a Professional Designation in Visual Display and Spatial Design. When not writing or trapped in homework hell, she is usually building puzzles or Legos with her kids in her free time.