Tag Archives | memory

Autism and the mystery injuries

One of the biggest problems with Autism, whether your child is verbal or non verbal, is the lack of information. Even if your child speaks quite well, there’s a good chance that you won’t get the information out of them that you’re looking for.

In my case, this is never more apparent than when my son has a random cut, scrape or bruise on his body. And I don’t intend to speak for everyone but I have spoken to more than enough other parents to realize that this isn’t isolated to just my experience.

Introducing the bruise

bruiseThis bruise, pictured right (click to see full size), appeared on my son’s leg this week-end. It’s in the back of his leg, under his knee… which leaves us wondering if it was there sooner and we just didn’t notice, if it appeared during the week-end at some random point or if it actually happened this week-end.

The problem is this… my son doesn’t remember how he got it. This isn’t surprising because most people really don’t remember getting a bruise, since it tends to appear well after the impact that caused it.

But in my son’s case, and I assume many Autistic cases, this is bit more common.

Of all the things he remembers….

My son, like many (but not all) Autistics, has quite the amazing memory. He can hear a story book one time in September and remember it word for word in April. He remembers games I played with him when he was just 1. But ask him how he got a scratch on his face, or a scrape on his arm or, in this case, a bruise on his leg… and he simply will not have an answer.

I’m not sure if it’s selective memory blocking… you know, not wanting to be able to recall a painful event, or if that sort of event really just doesn’t get stored in there sometimes.

What I do know is that it’s not an ideal situation. I don’t mean that from just a convenience stand point but from a safety stand point.

As a parent, you see these injuries and wonder if there is a bully, an abuser, an unsafe environment… you want your child to be safe and not having the information sends your mind into overdrive. Chances are though, he just fell down, hit something too hard, tripped over another student or who knows what… but it’s probably just one of many sores that children are going to get. They play pretty hard.

The Mystery

Still, we’re left wondering. How did this bruise happen? It’s nearly black. It’s very big and not only that, what you don’t see in the picture is that it goes straight across the back of his leg and even appears much more lightly on the other leg.

To me, this means he got whacked with something (like a stick) or that he fell back against something like a hard chair or something.

I’m fairly certain that it’s an innocent bruise (no one intentionally hurt him) but again, I don’t know what did it because he doesn’t know.

As a parent, that’s scary. As a parent of a child with Autism, it’s one more issue to deal with on top of countless others.

If there are studies on this, I am unaware of them. I’m not even sure how they could study something like this. But I suspect that if it was possible, the results would show that I’m not the only parent that has to play detective to find the cause of random injuries. In fact, I would wager that it’s all too common.

Do this happen with you and your children? Please share your experiences.

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The follow through. When disciplining, stick to your guns

One of the more challenging things to do is discipline your children… book stores and libraries could fill entire sections just with books on the subject, there’s just so many opinions, methods, taboos and other topics to be aware of.

The one aspect that almost all agree on, and is also the most tricky to accomplish, is following through with your threats.

For example, my boys would not go to sleep once in bed… I can’t keep separating them, I can’t let them stay up late and make life harder for their teachers at school due to them being over tired… what do I do?

Well, I certainly can’t threaten them with much in the here and now… it’s bed time, they have pj’s on, they’re in bed. What can I take away? What kind of time out could I give them?

The most obvious thing to do is to threaten to take away something they like for the next day… in my boy’s case, television, video games, treats… it’s different for every child as every child has something different they really love.

What ever it is that you decide upon, you must follow through. It doesn’t matter if you threaten to take away their favourite hat or their will to live.. what ever it is, you better stand firm on that the next day and remind them what you said, what they did and why you have no choice but to take it away.

All children are smart, all children are clever… they will learn very quickly what an empty threat is if you make one. If you threaten to take away treats the next day, you better do it.. no matter what happens that next day.

In the case of a child with Autism, it’s doubly true because depending on how exactly Autism affects your child (everyone is different), there’s a good chance that the one time that you cave, will be the one and only time that is retained with any clarity. What I am trying to say is, they’ll forget the 6 times you held firm and remember the 1 time you didn’t.

As you can imagine, something like that would make all future threats of discipline a very futile task, and they’ll tell you that too. “Go to sleep or I’ll take away tv all day tomorrow.” will be met with “No! No taking away tv tomorrow! I will watch tv so there!”

You don’t have to be ruthless, you don’t have to threaten to take away much really… so long as you stick to your guns. If you say it, you had better mean it. Because if you have no intention on following through, you’ll only be making things harder for yourself from there on out.

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Freeing the soul that is locked within

Low functioning (severe) individuals with Autism are often referred to as being trapped in their own world or being in a body that simply doesn’t work the way it should. There is a new movie (Wretches & Jabberers) coming out that I think will illustrate this concept beautifully.

Most recently, there was a news article referring to how Autistics really do understand you even if they can not speak and you do not get a response. Honestly, Carly Fleischmann probably is the best example of this to date… a young girl that was unable to speak for most of her life until she approached a computer keyboard and began to type out full, coherent sentences.

There is a lot going on here that I think a lot of different people easily forget. Here is how I see the forgetting being broken down:

  1. Parents of children that have Autism yet are still higher functioning, or even with Aspergers, often forget that other parents have children that hurt themselves, others, have yet to be toilet trained or even speak.
  2. Individuals with Autism/Aspergers see it as a gift as well as a curse, sometimes simply as a gift.. I’ve even seen some go so far as to think they’re superior from everyone else. To these people, many times, they see no reason to do anything at all except welcome the gift for what it is. This can make some parents quite upset when their children are so bad off that they see it as nothing but a curse.
  3. Parents of the low functioning children sometimes forget that their children is likely very aware of what they say and do around them. Often talking to others as if they’re not there, when they are… getting upset at them for something beyond their control, for saying hurtful things out of frustration… they forget that they wouldn’t say these things if their child was listening… they are listening.

There are a couple of key points to all of this that I think are often missed as well, not on purpose and certainly not at all times… but from time to time, we let it slip out of our memories and thoughts.

As difficult as it is to have a special needs child, it is still just as hard or even harder to be that child.

We often get wrapped up in the stress that we forget our child is even a human being.. not literally, but figuratively. We forget their thoughts, emotions and own frustrations are in there… we don’t see it or hear it, but they’re there. They’re in a prison right there beside you and they can’t get out. You think you have it hard that they won’t give you a hug? Imagine how hard it is that they so wish they could… but can’t.

There could be brilliance struggling to get out.

I often say “No matter how severe, never underestimate a person with Autism. There could be brilliance struggling to get out.” I was corrected that I should say “is” as opposed to “could be” but again, we have to be realistic… not every person with Autism is brilliant. They are certainly wonderful, beautiful people with unlimited potential… but not everyone is brilliant, Autism or not.

But in the very least, there is an average person in there… brilliant or not, they’re amazing in their own right. Don’t expect there to be the next Einstein or Mozart in there that you have to release… they’re probably not. But they are still your children.. your perfect children.

And they don’t need the pressure of greatness pressed on them. They simply need to just be. They simply need to have your acceptance, your understanding and most of all, for you to never forget who they are. They’re in there.

This is where I feel there needs to be a cure.

Not necessarily a way to strip away Autism or even prevent it, but for right now, we need a cure to break the shell.. to let these children (and adults too!!) be able to not only speak but express emotions, function properly and become independent.

I don’t care what vaccines might do, or what living close to a highway may cause… all of those studies talk about risk. As in, percentage points. None of those studies mean that you do X and you’ll have a 0% chance of having a child with Autism. And until that does come to be, we need to be focusing on getting those low functioning individuals talking.

Cure the curse, leave the gift.

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I can’t believe I’ve become the “When I was your age” guy

This Christmas was pretty amazing.. we had virtually no money and yet our children ended up waking up to their own hand held video games and a new Xbox 360 Kinect, all of which had multiple games.

I, myself, got a WD Live Media Player… it is essentially a little box that sits next to my tv and plays blu-ray quality movies straight off my computer that is in my office. My computer, by the way, currently holds over 70 movies for us (parents) and 50 movies for the kids. So turning on this new media box and being able to flip through over 100 movies is kinda nice. Plus, it also does Youtube and stuff, right on the tv… high quality.

What does all this mean? It means that I found myself sitting in my chair thinking to myself… “When I was you age…. ”


Cutting edge techology

I mean, seriously… I’m 34. When I was 5, the newest game to hit the market was the Atari, which featured stick figure characters and a range of about 6 different synthesized sounds. This was the big step up from what I had when I was 4, which was a small coffee table sized unit with a knob on each end. That’s right, it had Pong on it.

Also, we were nearing the end of an epic movie media battle between VHS and Beta. Ahh… VHS. You had to press play, then hit fast forward for several minutes to skip all the previews, then press play again to watch the film. Then you had to rewind it when it was done so that you wouldn’t have to rewind it before watching it next time (or returning it to the store and being charged extra).

When a movie got to be old (like, a few months), the sound would start to get wonky and if you’re really lucky, the tape would get stuck in the machine and get chewed up.

Then they had new players… they called them “Hi-Fi”. We thought the picture was amazing!

You know what we did during car rides? We stared out the window.

Alright alright…  now fast forward to current times, where I have 2 children that have it a little different.

The video games today feature life like animations and features, stunning image quality, days of play time, real world environments, open ended style play and most amazingly… a space aged camera that makes your entire body the controller.

Not only that, but they can now play games in their hands that are far better quality than what I had when I was a teenager. How did hand held units get so much better than what the top systems had to offer on my television? So much for staring out the window on those long car rides.

VHS is all but non existent these days with DVD having replaced them but even that is almost out the door as Blu-Ray is quickly taking it’s place. Watching movies in Blu-Ray is truly an amazing experience all on it’s own but what I failed to mention earlier was how crappy our televisions were. I mean, when your tv has a knob that you must physically get up to walk to and crank to change the channels.. that’s crappy.

But today, my boys get to watch 1080P movies on a 46″ plasma television… pretty darn swanky!!

Plus they get to play those controllerless, life like detail games on that plasma tv too.

Oh, another nice little perk… is my cell phone. Yes, my phone. When we’re out at a restaurant and the boys are getting restless, I can pop on a game or video or even a full length movie right onto my phone and presto, they’re entertained. I mean, in the palm of their hand they have more than I had in my entire bedroom at their age.

So yes, I’ve become a “When I was your age” guy, rather envious of my boys for all that they have compared to what I had but at the same time, rather proud.

I mean, we really are your normal family, living paycheck to paycheck, not much to spare on much of anything really, but with a purchase here, a purchase there… over the course of a few years, my boys really don’t have it so bad!

By the end of my jealousy induced memory flash backs, I was actually quite proud of what I’ve been able to provide for my family. No, I didn’t invent this new technology for them, but I’ve been able to provide them with it.

All in all, that’s really not so bad. And one day, when they’re in their 30’s and thinking about how bad they had it as kids, hopefully they’ll appreciate the fact that despite it being so crappy in comparison, it still was the top of the line, and their parents had it for them.

I think I’ll call my mom tonight just to say thanks.

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How Does He Remember That?

When Cameron was only 1, I used to place a ball on my head and let it roll off onto the ground. This amused him and so I would have to do it for hours. That got old quick and time passed just as quick and suddenly my 3 year old boy came to me one day, with a ball and placed it on my head and let it roll off and laughed. 2 years had passed but he remembered it as if it was yesterday.

Fast forward to a 4 year old going to school for the first time, it’s September and he speaks to no one… he’s scared, he doesn’t understand why he’s separated from his parents and doesn’t know who those people are. They cover a lot each and every day, reading stories, learning numbers, letters and more… it’s really quite overwhelming for all of the children but they handle it well.

By April, all of the students are pretty well adjusted to the routine and they are all friends and everything is going just fine. The teacher pulls out a book that they hadn’t read since that awkward time back in September and begins to read it. Cameron perks up and not only remembers the book, but he remembers each page… he remembers who is in it, what happens to them… everything.

The teachers write back to us at the end of the day asking us if we have that book at home because he knew it so well.

Does this mean he has a photographic memory? I don’t think so, but I do think he’s able to file them much better than we can… where a pleasurable memory, one that he wants to keep close to his heart, is easily recalled any time later.

Ask him to remember someone’s name, or what someone had said and he’s not as capable… probably because it’s vocal and not visual. However he can also have trouble recalling visuals that he has no interest in.

How does he remember some things so well? I don’t think I’ll ever really know but it is strangely comforting to me to know that the really great times that we have together will never be forgotten, ever.

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