Autism: C'hele's Story

May 14, 2007

Autism: I’m Not A Bad Parent! I’m A Parent Of A Child With Asperger’s Syndrome ~ Part V

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 16:24

Part V

4. AS (and kids on the spectrum line) have sensory issues due to neurological impairments. There could be many or a just a few. I think of all the characteristics in autism and next to styming, this is the most obvious. These senses would included (but not necessarily affect all): taste, touch, auditory, smell and visual. A tag in the back of a shirt is huge culprit amongst Autistic children, as it can drive them absolutely insane. To some extremely sensitive children, the tag can actually “cause pain” and the end result is extreme negative behaviour. In addition, high anxiety and fatigue can increase sensory impairments. My daughter will avoid like the plague getting her hands dirty. In the past, she would refuse or avoid working with play dough, clay, dirt or bake at home…anything that may get her fingers dirty. To this day, she will (almost) never eat anything with her hands and must have a fork and knife with her whilst eating. Michaela is sensitive to sounds and when she was three I had taken her to the Boundary Health Unit to get her hearing tested and everything turned out normal. I once took her to an antique auction and the sound of the auctioneer’s voice caused her great discomfort. She held her hands over her ears the entire time we were there until I finally had to remove her from the building to put her out of her misery. Sharp, squeaky sounds also cause a lot of discomfort to the point of a melt-down. Michaela prefers to be barefoot as she dislikes wearing socks and certain shoes on her feet; this is a problem during cold months.

I have been accused of allowing Michaela “to get away” with or “avoid” having to do certain activities or attending certain places. People think that Michaela intentionally manipulates me (she’s a kid; however I am able to determine the difference!). Michaela has also been accused of being over-sensitive and silly.

When Michaela was approximately 3.5 years old, one day we went to Costco to do some shopping. She sat in the buggy and within ten minutes, she was very “jumpy” and irate. This soon manifested into odd behaviour; she was fiercely tugging at her hair, began to whine and eventually this led to crying and excessive hyperactivity. This surprised me as I could not figure out what it was that created this behaviour. She was fed, dressed appropriately and absolutely loved to go shopping! I attempted to console her and upon strolling down an isle, we stopped in front of a pallet full of dill pickles. I have to add, that the dill pickles were in very large glass jars! Like a rubber band, she springed from the buggy and headed straight over to this pallet. She deftly managed to retrieve one and attempted to smash it on the ground before I successfully intercepted. I was horrified to observe this kind of behaviour as Michaela is normally very good natured. I was even more horrified from the reaction from a couple a few feet away from us that witnessed the whole ordeal. The red-faced woman promptly commented:

“Why don’t you remove that child immediately and spank the hell out of her for this horrid behaviour!? You should be ashamed of yourself as her parent!”

Stunned, I couldn’t find the words to retaliate. All I could do, was to attempt to remove my very out-of-control child from the store as safely as possible so she would not cause any further damage. It was a few weeks later when Caela’s PDD/NOS assessment was formalized. During this time (and for the next two years), I attended weekly group support meetings for parents with children who had Autism and other related disorders. Upon relating this story to the counsellor, she sized up the situation for me very quickly. Michaela was neurologically over-stimulated by her environment and her behaviour was the result of neurological/sensory overload. Wanting to better understand “what” caused the overload, we returned to Costco and I quickly discovered that the lights and huge crowds were immediate culprits. I felt so stupid for not seeing this right away!

I remember breaking down in tears many, many times over the comment of: “You have a responsibility to discipline your child when she does not comply or behave appropriately. You need to give her a spanking.” Defiant and knowing better, I would retort: “YOU DO NOT spank a child with special needs!!!”

Some AS children are more discreet with their sensory/spatial difficulties. Light touching from others or people standing too close to them can cause a person with AS to suddenly push them away, giving others the impression that they are very aggressive when they’re really not. My daughter intensely dislikes anyone being “in her circle,” and will not hesitate to verbally tell you so. She will display this by holding her arm and hand out to show you how far to take that step back and will literally thank you for doing so.

When Michaela was three and in preschool for the first time, she was considered to be an angry, uncontrollable and aggressive girl. Boys her age quickly figured out Michaela’s spatial/sensory issues and would purposely stand in her space to tease her and the end result was Michaela beating the hell out of them and then be sent home. Teachers blamed Michaela’s angry behaviour on my personal stresses due to my lengthy, ongoing divorce at the time. When I assured them that this was not the case and explained the nature of her challenges, they then brought in a special needs support worker. Humiliated and angry, it was not my parenting skills!

Michaela soon went into a special education, school readiness program for the next two years. Finally! Michaela was receiving the proper support she needed and deserved. It was amazing…she “blossomed” thereafter until she entered elementary school. It was then she started calling school, “the bad place.”

To be continued…

C’hele

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