Thursday, June 24, 2010

The spectrum

From the time we received my son's diagnosis in 2008 I have spent quite a bit of time reading about and researching autism. One of the first things I learned was that this is a spectrum disorder which affects each individual in a different way. This also means that people on the spectrum have a wide range of abilities and many excel in their particular area of interest. In our case I see how remarkable our son's memory is and how aware he can be of his surroundings at any given time. He just turned 4 and while we are unable to hold a conversation with him, his spontaneous speech is picking up and he will request certain items throughout the day. In many ways our boy is just like other typically developing 4 year olds becoming a little more independent as he gets older.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make on the idea of spectrums. Aren't we all on a spectrum of some sort and not just individuals affected by autism? I have strengths and weaknesses just like anyone else and everyone has a unique set of talents. Once we start going to school we are graded on our performance and we all end up at different levels academically. Once we enter the workforce there are those that earn quite a bit money in their careers, there are some who earn very little, and many of us end up somewhere in the middle of the financial spectrum. The challenges that individuals with autism and their families face can be difficult, frustrating, and at times daunting. However, I feel that as a society we should really try and celebrate the many different contributions that we all make to this world. Instead of ostracizing groups of people for perceived differences we should embrace them. We are all part of one giant spectrum with many different abilities, beliefs, and customs. As a father to a child with autism I think it is important for others who are not really aware of the disorder to try and look through the diagnosis. My advice to them is to try and focus on the person and not just a behavior that may be seem odd or inappropriate. We want the best for our children and most of all we want them to be accepted by their peers. Whatever abilities a person has they can find a way to contribute in a positive way that can enrich their lives. We all learn at different rates, and we speak many different languages, and just because at this point in time my son is unable to carry on a conversation it does not mean he is unable to communicate with his family. He just does it different than most…

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Autism Speaks walk event

This past Sunday, June 13th, 2010 we participated in the Walk Now for Autism Speaks event held in downtown Manhattan. I have to say it was amazing to see how many people were there united for this cause and with the belief that we will one day unlock the mysteries of autism.

Quite a few people had t-shirts made for the event with pictures of their family member affected by the disorder and some with inspirational quotes geared towards autism and its effect on families. I was particularly struck by one team's t-shirt with the following quote from Temple Grandin, PH.D. (for those who do not know her, she is an autistic woman widely noted for her autism advocacy) It simply stated, “I am different, not less.” My only advice is that the next time you see a child acting out or having a temper tantrum, or who appears to be misbehaving in public, please keep in mind this child may suffer from an Autism Spectrum Disorder and may not be able to control their response in certain situations. Try and look through the actions and see the person, just like us, struggling inside.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Memorial Weekend trip

For Memorial Day Weekend we took a road trip to see my parents in Ohio. Strangely enough, in the time leading up to our departure we were a little more worried about how the baby would handle the car ride than Diego. Our concerns were whether or not he was car-sick because he has thrown up in the car before on shorter trips around town. Our fears were realized when he threw up a few times on the drive over and we could tell he just didn't feel well while he was awake. I decided if we left early enough (4:00 AM), the kids would sleep a few hours and then we could stop for breakfast before heading out on the road again. Well, Diego decided he would not sleep since the portable DVD monitor was right in front of him and the baby slept for about two hours before waking up and starting to complain about riding in the car. We assumed if he drank his milk in the restaurant and then had time to settle his stomach he would be fine watching a movie like his big brother Diego. About an hour after we started driving again I had to pull over into a rest area to help my wife clean up the vomit in the backseat. After about 11 hours of traveling, 4 stops, and 2 big tantrums from Diego we arrived at my parents house and everyone was definitely ready to get out of the car !
My mom had bought a kiddie pool for my boys and Diego immediately set about helping me get the pool ready by spraying the garden hose everywhere. He loves playing with water, and especially the hose. Once that was ready he got right in and played for a long time. It was just what he needed to relax him from the long trip. Adrian also walked around the outside and got splashed by Diego. He would get to swim the following day with his big brother. During the trip we took the boys to the zoo and also an animal safari where the animals walk up to the car and you can feed them with supplies handed out by the safari employees. Diego loved the animals and did not seem to be afraid since we were inside the car. He had fun visiting his grandparents and so did Adrian, who also got to meet his aunt and uncle from California for the first time. My sister lives out there and had yet to meet our new baby, so we decided to make the trip over to Ohio because she would be in town for a wedding that weekend. Her and her husband had a great time with the kids and Diego got to take a big road trip as well. We feel trips like this will help Diego experience new things and help him to socialize...