J has Autism

19 02 2008

The fact that J has Autism doesn’t define him but it is part of his make-up.  He’s also a great reader, a handsome fella and the best jumper in his class.  He has Autism.

We can choose to say that it’s a disability or say that he is “differently able.” What we call it won’t change the fact that he has Autism. We can call folks who don’t have Autism “neuro-typical” but, it still doesn’t change the fact that J has Autism… we can argue about what causes it– Environment, Mercury, Heredity… but, that’s not going to change his diagnosis.

We can choose to be a community divided and spend our time fighting about causes or whether or not our children need to be “cured”… but, that’s not going to help our kids.

The nature of Autism makes it impossible to have a standardized way of helping these kids (some people object to the word “treatment”). It’s a spectrum. So, our time– the time of those who love and know these children the most– needs to be spent helping them function as contributing members of society, independent, confident and happy adults. I don’t know if he needs to be cured or if he just needs to learn to overcome his challenges.

What I do know is that I’m not going to live forever and it’s my job to prepare him for life after me. If he’s going to need a schedule in order to stay grounded– it’s my job to teach him how to use a calendar, a clock and a note pad. If he is always going to eat white food– it’s my job to teach him how to order off the menu. Hitting is not ok. Tom and Jerry are not real. It is important to brush your teeth and you can’t leave the house in your pajamas. That’s my job…

I feel strongly that better treatments need to be found, a cause needs to be identified beyond shadow of a doubt and if there can be a magic pill that causes his world make sense it needs to be developed. But, I’m not a Doctor, Scientists or Therapist so, it’s not up to me… I can write letters and bug politicians. I can donate to research. But, I’m not going to spend my time speculating about causes and cures when my son needs that time for himself.

So, I’ll say it out loud:  J has Autism. 
He isn’t my “cause”– he’s my son.

So What Causes Autism?

10 01 2008

With recent reports indicating that Mercury isn’t linked to Autism– be it true or not– I’m grasping for causes that don’t point back to me.  Did my choices– environment, foods, spouse– cause my son to have Autism?

There are a number of theories– food allergies (wheat gluten, diary), genetic predisposition combined with environment are among the most popular besides Mercury. Could these children be our canaries? Is Autism caused by the environment?

A few years ago my husband read an article that claimed a link between older fathers and Autism. He was distraught for weeks blaming himself for the challenges our son faces. I haven’t heard this theory apart from that one article.

I know it’s important to find out what causes Autism so that future cases can be avoided but as I’m dealing with the disorder on a day to day basis, I must confess that I don’t know if I really want to know what causes it… what if it was something I did or didn’t do? Could I live with that guilt?  A long time ago– I believe in the 60s it was theorized that Autism was caused by “refrigerator mothers”. Can you imagine believing that something that you did or didn’t do caused your child to face these challenges?

An article I read recently looked at several causes for Autism and concluded, wisely, that those who live with this disorder should spend their time looking for treatments and let the medical profession figure out what causes it. 

I guess I need to get off the kick and spend my energy trying to figure out what works for J. He is an individual and not everything that works for others will work for him — visa-versa. He is my priority and he deserves my time.