Saturday, April 3, 2010

Autism Awareness Month

April 2, 2010 launched World Autism Day, and the month of April is Autism Awareness month (at least in the states).
My eight year old son, Dagan, was diagnosed with High Functioning Autism/Asperger's Syndrome when he started kindergarten. We knew something was different about him, but we never considered Autism. He could talk, for Pete's sake! Really, really well in fact. By the time he turned two, he could recite and recognize the letters of the alphabet, as well as their phonetic sounds. He was conversing with adults, using the speech of a 4 or 5 year old. He could spell his name. And by age 4, he had already taught himself a few words to read. I never made any effort to get him reading. He followed along while I read our stories every night, and actually taught himself to read. If he couldn't pronounce it, he'd ask. Once. And that was it.
In my head, Autistic people had a language deficit. They didn't interact well with adults. So his diagnosis was a shock to say the least. I cried a lot, wondering what I might have done wrong somewhere along the way. And then I started reading, and reading, and reading some more. I researched for a good six months before we found a DAN! doctor. And we've been very pleased with the results. While Dagan hasn't had the drastic turnaround that some kids have had. There is a noticeable difference however.
He suffered for four years with horrible constipation before unconventional therapies turned his life around. It's been a hard road and a longer one ahead. Dagan still has some difficulties socially at school, and is at an age where other kids are starting to notice he's different. And every year, new fears arise...how will he live on his own, will he be able to hold a job, will he find someone to love that will accept him as he is? It's a long way off, and hopefully the research will continue to uncover more each year.

To all the people dealing with Autism and it's large spectrum of disorders...You're amazing!
Not many people can understand what it's like living with this. People assume that since it's not a medical problem (which it actually is) and they attend school, that it can't be all that bad. Well, you're wrong. It's hard, but at the same time I wouldn't change anything about his personality. Dagan is an affectionate, creative, intelligent, joyful boy, who loves to make others happy. I just want him to have some resemblance of a "normal" childhood, and grow up to function in society.
To all the folks not living with this disorder, educate yourself and others. You never know when you might be faced with it. Last time I checked 1:100 kids have Autism.

Check out these sites for more info:

4 comments:

Tara said...

Beautiful post, Aven. You're an incredible mother :)

Aven said...

Thanks, Tara. Right back at ya :)

sjstage said...

Aven, Your voice reflects so many, I'm sure, so please keep your messages coming our way. Dagan has been a great teacher to us and we are grateful to have all of you in our lives. The McNabbs are indeed an amazing family.

Hélène Boudreau said...

Wonderful post, Aven. My daughters and I are participating in the Walk for Autism in June and we're planning a yard sale to help raise money.

A worthy cause!