Friday, February 19, 2010

A Brief Education on My Son's Autism

Autism Spectrum Disorder encompasses a wide range of disorders and diagnoses, each with varying severity, including Autistic disorder ("classic" autism), Aspergers Syndrome, and Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, or PDD-NOS. This means that you can have kids who are both extremely severe or really mild with the same diagnosis. Jason's actual diagnosis is Pervasive Development Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified. What does that mean? Let me tell you.
In Jason's case, he has a complete disconnect socially. While he wants friends, he can't read facial expression or tone. Sarcasm is completely lost on him and he cannot distinguish the nuances of relationships or conversation. He may jump into a conversation at an inappropriate point, say something completely unrelated or take a joke too far. He's also quite literal with what he hears so when you say to him angrily, "I dare you to do that again!" he will. He fidgits and touches things and doesn't always have the best personal space awareness.
Because of all of this, he doesn't relate well with his peers or older kids. At this point, kids younger by a few years seem to be okay with him. I think they have more social tolerance at this age and as they are still learning the social rules themselves and are just less into talking and more into playing. Jason's peers aren't so understanding. Because he looks normal, they expect him to act normal. And if they have known him more than a year or two, they are even less understanding because he used to be normal. He wasn't. He just wasn't abnormal enough to be diagnosed.
Jason's reaching an age where kids have a greater understanding of their place in society and how they want to be perceived and so far, most don't want to be perceived at being his friend. This hurts Jason a lot. A common misconception is that Autistic kids can't feel emotions, but the truth is that they feel them quite deeply. He doesn't understand why the kid who played catch with him at baseball practice ignores him and laughs at him at school. He doesn't get why he's told he can't sit down with a kid at lunch. And he really doesn't understand why no one wants to play with him even in his own neighborhood.
Differences like these make it very easy for Jason, and others like him, to be picked on or bullied by people who are uninformed or uneducated about Autism or similar disorders. The fact that he doesn't always know or understand when he's being picked on often will make him a perpetual target.
So, here is my request. I know there are a few people who read this who have kids who know Jason from school or church. And if you don't, but know someone who does, please feel free to forward this on. I don't want people to force their kids to be his friend. I would simply like that if you have a child who knows my son that you take a moment to educate them a little on these differences to make Jason's next contact with them a positive one. I think that most kids just don't know what to make of him and without meaning to, hurt his feelings. I'm praying that a little bit of education can go a long way.
Thank you.

No comments: