Tag Archives | Autism

Family Dinner is Not What I Thought It Would Be

When you have a baby, and you’re standing there with this little new life of just a few minutes… your life flashes before your eyes, only it’s not the life you’ve had but the life you have yet to have.

You picture teaching this new life how to walk, how to say it’s first word, how to throw a ball, ride a bike… eventually, how to drive. So much floods your mind that you literally get light headed thinking about it. And as the years start rolling and you start doing some of those things, your mind starts to picture the more simple things as well, such as bed time stories, visits to the park, school and family dinners where everyone talks to each other.

But then you find out that your child has Autism (or any disorder/disease really) and all of those happy thoughts of your life yet to be come flooding through you once again, only this time it’s not of how you look forward to them… but… will they happen at all?

We bought my son a bike, and I made a solid attempt at teaching him to ride it but he could never get his feet to do what was needed of them. And if you’ve ever seen a 4 year old with Autism try to run, you would see why. So I’ve put it off for another year, we can try again as he learns more control.

I tried to teach him how to catch a ball but again,  his hands simply don’t have the discipline and coordination to do the things that are required of them.

Family dinner is one area that has been particularly difficult… and it’s not because he won’t talk to us, as you might expect from a child with Autism.

While it’s true that Cameron has a hard time with the social aspect, it’s not that he can’t talk to us… he does, it’s just that he can’t sit there for a whole meal. Essentially what happens is that myself, my wife and my 2 year old all sit around and eat while Cameron runs in and takes a bite and then runs back out to the play room to play. We give him a bit and then call him back to have another bite and he disappears again.

This has been the routine ever since he’s been able to do so… it means having a dinner with and without the whole family. It’s not what I had pictured at all, but I’ll take what I can get.

The other issue is that he’s on a GFCF diet, which means that 9 times out of 10, he’s eating a specially prepared meal that doesn’t match ours… we do try to stick to the same diet however my son’s food issues extend beyond just what we limit him on. He also refuses to eat the majority of vegetables and all meats, including fish and chicken. He has never once tried fast food and refuses to, but he does love candy and chocolate, not the best supper options.

So there we sit, watching my son run in and out through the entire meal, eating something different from the rest of us. Not at all what I had pictured when I first held him in my arms, not at all the happy family setting you see in movies and television.

We often get funny looks or comments from friends and family when they see us let him run around and play, rather than sit up like a good big boy and eat until his plate is empty (right? you all remember your parents making you do that?)… well, the fact is, either we do it this way or he doesn’t eat his dinner.

I’d much rather have a child with a severely limited diet actually eat, even if it means he plays all the while, than to have him not eat at all.

It’s not what I pictured, it’s not what you see on tv and it’s not how people tell you it should be… but it’s my family, he’s my son and he’s happy and healthy so to me, it’s the perfect family dinner.

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Autism, It’s What My Son Has. Not The Other Way Around.

There’s a lot of controversy around this video that was put out in which Autism was made out to be a man, a predator, who was preying on our children… kinda creepy but for me, it really made me think about how those so disconnected with Autism must think. I know for many, it’s how they think of cancer, or other stranger issues like flesh eating disease. These are things that attack people, they move in, attack, grow and take over. I think for some people, it’s just easier to think of Autism in that way.

The truth is though, there is no growth, there is no outside entity moving in. It’s something you just have, it’s a part of you. For all it’s good (savants) and bads (violence, lack of communication), it’s just part of what makes you who you are.

I recently ‘tweeted’ a simple line that came to me after watching that video: “Autism, it’s what my son has. Not the other way around.”

And I couldn’t help but think to myself, why don’t I make more of an effort to convey that to people when I’m describing to them how my son is. He’s every bit the normal little boy that every other child they deal with is. He just has some foods he can’t eat, like other children with allergies would, he has some issues with being overwhelmed or over stimulated, I had the same problem as a child, I’m not Autistic.

Autism is something that forces me to have to give people certain ‘tips’ and things to look for when they get to know him. They don’t have to put on a breathing apparatus or wear rubber gloves for fear of catching it, and they don’t have to completely alter entire systems or routines to suit him. They just need to be aware of a few things and all will be fine.

Some parents are not so lucky, I know this… and truly, my heart goes out to you because I can’t begin to imagine what that would be like. But for those of us who can get our child to talk, to be a part of the things we do… remember, they have Autism, they have issues, the Autism doesn’t have them.

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The Hardest Part of Autism – Looking To The Future

I’ve had some people ask me what the hardest part is of having an Autistic son is and I kind of want to smack them. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fair question but really, it’s an extremely overwhelming question.

Let’s see, we’ll start with the basics like his refusal to eat most foods, he’s never touched meat of any kind and then add on the fact that the stuff he will eat, he can’t because it makes him out of control. Then there’s his constant temper tantrums, more so a year ago than now but still happen. There’s his constant sadness as he comes home from school telling us how he has no friends. There’s the fear we have any time anyone anywhere ever has to take care of him, whether it’s family, baby sitters, teachers, sunday school teachers… anyone. Please don’t enrage him, please don’t feed him! There’s the stress that goes into every outing… right now we need to go on a week long trip, we have no idea how we’ll feed him since hotel rooms and restaurants aren’t his best situations to be in. Then there’s the financial burden, not only is there $150/hr speech therapy sessions but simple things like gluten free food cost a lot more than normal groceries. Let’s not forget that we picked up and sold our house, at a loss, to get him to a city where there’s a school that is perfect for him. That’s a good start….

On top of all of this there’s one thing that is actually harder than all of that, one thing that my wife and I have sat down and discussed many times and laid awake at night thinking about…. Cameron’s future.

I think most parents think about their children’s future quite a bit, most dream of great things and have their worries. It’s safe to say that most parents simply wish for their children to have a better life than they did themselves.

However, when your child is Autistic, you have a whole other world of uncertainty added on… one where the dreams fade a little, one where the hopes of a better life become more a matter of hope than desire. When your child is Autistic, all you want for them, is to be normal.

I think some parents pray for a savant, a child who’ll find that one truly amazing and indescribable talent that will bring the media running and make your child a prodigy… but I think most parents, like us, only want for our child to be able to grow up happy, to be able to finish school, have friends, get a good job, have a family of their own and all those good things that many people simply take for granted.

I think, for me anyhow, the hardest part is looking to the future and thinking to myself, what if he doesn’t have that? What if his life only gets harder? I mean, having no friends is hard at the age of 4 but it can make a teenager suicidal. What if he never has a family of his own? No one to love, to care for him other than his parents?

We can sell our house at a loss, we can handle the craziness when someone slips him a cookie that he shouldn’t have, we can handle the tantrums and the sadness… we can even handle having to eat mr noodles for a while to make sure he gets the things he needs… but looking to the future is something I can’t really handle. It’s something I don’t like to think about.

I’ve learned that all I can do is put it out of my mind and focus on right now. I just have to keep eating those mr noodles, keep helping him through the tantrums, keep getting him into the schools and programs he needs and maybe, just maybe…. hopefully… the future will sort itself out. Because if I spend all my time dwelling on what’s hardest, I’ll miss what is the best…. and that’s here and now.

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