Imagine you are sitting in a restaurant, having fantastic time with your family and you get disturbed because of a temper tantrum of seeming old looking boy. Your first reaction would be “Why can’t parent manage their kids when they are outside? This is a nice place where everyone would like to enjoy a quiet evening with their near and dear ones..” “these today’s kids are so spoiled..” and so on.. It never occurs to us that the restaurant you think that is quiet is not SO quiet for that boy. The dreamy dimmed light bulbs are not really soothing for his eyes. That boy could be suffering from a sensory overload by all this. That boy could be Autistic. And Autistic brain is different. Really Different!
If I were you at that restaurant, like 6 years ago; my reaction would have been just the same! But not anymore. Because I have a 6 year old kid with Moderate to Sever Autism. He is Non Verbal. He has sensory issues. And I want to tell his story to the world, so that the world would be more aware of conditions like these and would be more willing to give chances to these kids and would be less judgmental. I want my kid to have that kind of world around him where he is being understood, empathized but not singled out based on criticism or sympathy.
Autism is a neurological disorder where the brain is wired a bit differently than how it is with most of us. This different wiring in brain leads to a whole different symptoms for that person. Such as the person could be non verbal all his life even he has perfect hearing, or even if he is verbal; he would be lacking the basic art of communication skill, he would be very serious all the time and probably would not realize when the other person is actually joking.. Or he would be very rigid, ritualistic person where he absolutely hates surprises and sudden changes! Most kids with autism lead a perfect life first couple years. Around the time of second birthday, the parent would notice that their kid seems a bit different than other kids. Most kids start talking (non stop!) by 2 but these kids don’t. Most kids will be pointing to the things they are interested in, but these don’t. Most kids respond to their name being called but these don’t. Most kids love getting a cuddle or mimicking an action song, or a pretend play… but these kids don’t! 🙁
Some of these kids will exhibit some symptoms of OCD, an obsessive compulsive disorder, or Auditory processing disorder or Sensory processing disorder or ADHD even. Because the brain that manages all these inputs so beautifully otherwise is bit confused in this case. It doesn’t know what to do with all these sensory input that it’s receiving. So it orders the kid to line up the toys, or flap like penguins, or rock their body, or cover the ears, or stare at the revolving objects for unlimited amount of time. Because doing all this helps soothe the brain. But as you can see, doing all this is not really that normal. ( so if you see someone rocking in the middle of the supermarket, understand that that person is actually coping the situation that overwhelms him/her. Never make fun of that person! He/her is actually far more brave than most of us.. Dealing, coping with the world that feels so strange!)
Autism is a spectrum disorder. That means, “If you have met one person with autism, you have met ONE person with autism”. It is not like you have a fever and you take acetaminophen to get better. No. Every kid is different. Every kid with Autism is different. You have to understand yours and then find the solution based on that. I am going to tell my kid’s story and what happened with him and what actually helps him. I will be talking about many therapies, activities that helps my kid. But if you want to try them, please keep in mind that Autism is a spectrum disorder. And what works for my kid may not work for yours. And as always, consult your doctor.