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Jean Shaw© -
If you've read my previous articles you will know the other day on breakfast television, autism was described as a "living nightmare". That really made my day as my son is autistic.
Certainly autism is a lifelong disability and for parents it's a real worry.
My son is eighteen and autistic. He bears no resemblance now to the "child from hell" whom I wrote about in my first book.
I make that statement just incase anyone reading this has just had their child diagnosed with autism and is filled with despair. Take it from someone who's been there, done that and got the tee-
However, the problems don't go away. They just change.
Whilst I am no expert, my best advice would be to accept the autism diagnosis and do whatever you can, as quickly as you can to help your child be the best he or she can be.
The real "experts" and just about everyone involved with autism all agree the earlier the intervention, the better.
Still, the reality is autism is a lifelong disability and whilst your child can, and most probably will improve in many areas, he or she will always be vulnerable and most likely need some sort of support. It's a worry.
My son will soon have to leave the security blanket afforded by the children's service and enter the world of the "adults". Unfortunately the help provided there is sparse and frequently inappropriate. Often it is centred on what the person can't do rather than what he or she can.
As I said my son has improved tremendously and with the right support is capable of all sorts of things.
He seldom speaks and academically is a very young child but when it comes to routine household and domestic chores I have more confidence in him than in my "normal" son who is almost two years older. (Sorry son, but you know it's true).
I have no qualms about him cooking, ironing, cleaning, decorating, gardening or any such tasks provided he is supervised. He is careful with tools and is very tidy, is observant, has an eye for detail and a great memory.
Most autistic individuals like routine so if you show them how to do something properly from the start then they are likely to do it that way forever.
You just have to make sure they don't get too rigid about routines. If I explain things to my son he's now happy to accept and make changes. It wasn't always so but the current happy state of affairs has evolved over the years.
It just takes endless patience and persistence.
However, there's one area I can't explain to him and that is emotions and empathy for other people. He is much better than he used to be but I'm sure he'll never understand the concept of love and that's a concern for me at the moment.
Well, it's really to do with a teenage girl he regularly comes into contact with. I think she has Asperger's Syndrome, or at least she is on the autistic spectrum somewhere and her hormones have kicked into overdrive.
She is sociable to say the least.
Having kissed most of the boys in the school and scared half of them (and their parents) by declaring she wants to have their babies, she now appears to have set her sights on my son.
Maybe she sees him as a challenge because he is so totally disinterested. That's the major difference between Asperger's and Autism. One desperately wants to fit in and be liked whilst the other doesn't care.
Anyway, they were apparently seen having a full kiss the other evening at the youth club and when questioned, this young temptress smiled and with a twinkle in her eye declared that since my son doesn't speak it was just his way of saying "Hello".
However, he doesn't greet anyone else in that manner so I suspect the lip lock wasn't instigated by my son.
It worries me.
You see whilst he doesn't express emotions he does have feelings. His brain may not function correctly but the rest of him certainly does. Since that kiss I've begun to wonder what will happen if he should decide he likes the feeling he gets when he kisses (or is kissed by) a girl.
My son learns by example and is vulnerable. Hopefully he'll never be left alone with a member of the opposite sex because although at the moment he prefers to watch Thomas the Tank Engine and Disney videos to Desperate Housewives, it could just be a matter of time before he is exposed to such programmes and what these days his more liberated peers consider "normal".
Remember he learns by example.
It would only take a few minutes with a learning disabled hormonal Lolita with little or no understanding of the consequences of unprotected sex and my son could find himself a father.
He wouldn't even know how or why.
Autism is a lifelong disability and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. It may or may not be a "living nightmare" but it certainly is a worry.
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