Friday, May 29, 2009
A commenter had some questions for me, and instead of responding just in a comment, I thought I'd post the answer here in case anyone else was interested. I may do this periodically if anyone's got a question that requires more than a couple of lines of reply.
Q: How old was Gus when you found out about him? Did you know before he was born? I ask this because I don't know how you learned to be so good with handling him. Was it all learning as he aged?
A: Gus was about eighteen months old when we noticed that he wasn't taking much interest in other children. I'd pick him up from day care and see him at one end of the play yard while the rest of the class was at the opposite end. At home when we'd take him to the park, he'd always gravitate away from other children. That was what gave us the first inkling that something was different about him. However, he had sensitivities right from birth. He was always hyper-alert and extremely sensitive to noise. I'm sure plenty of people thought I was a complete, overprotective psycho the way I insisted on total silence when I was trying to get him to sleep, but it was necessary. He was always fidgety and in constant motion - it's largely the way he processes information. Things like fine motor development were delayed, but since he was my first child, I had no point of comparison. I didn't think of anything as 'problematic' until that toddler stage. Another thing that tipped us off around that time was that Gus had been acquiring language and vocabulary at a remarkable rate, but then he stopped for a while. That was the point when we started to see a lot of tantrums, and I started having trouble managing his behavior. But once he got into Early Intervention and was given some communication tools, the meltdowns became much less of an issue. So to answer that part of the question, we didn't know anything before Gus was born, there were signs almost immediately after he was born, but we didn't definitively know that he'd need some special help until he was about 2.
As for handling him (I'm not sure I always handle him so well), it's all been a learning process, and I've had a great deal of help. One thing that made a big difference for us was that my husband and I made the decision that I would spend the majority of my time at home with Gus (and later MM). This allowed me to really learn who he is and how to meet his needs. In addition to that, we've been very lucky with the professionals who have worked with Gus from teachers to pediatricians to therapists. When Gus was in his uncommunicative stage, a parent trainer (social worker from our school district) worked with me to help me manage my own reactions to his behavior. The support of family and friends has been a great help, and the network of autism bloggers I've come across over the past few years has been wonderful resource for information and support as well. So I can't take all the credit for learning how to deal with the challenges of Asperger's - it's been a real group effort, and I'm always refining my approach because my amazing boy changes constantly.
I hope that answers the question! If you have questions or would like to share similar experiences with your child, please feel free to chime in! Have a great weekend!