Today’s guest post is by Jennifer Medina of MedinaMom.com. She is blessed with three sons on the spectrum, and I am privileged to get to spend time with her family almost every week. To the Medina family, “Autism is . . . not evil.”
Autism is . . . not evil by Jennifer Medina
When we first announced that Pony-Boy has Asperger’s Syndrome, we were met with varying responses. Some people agreed and said it made sense. Others were unsure and offered prayer. A small handful offered support because they knew what we were going through. A very small contingency overreacted and judged this as some sort of death sentence.
About eight months later, we had it confirmed for us that Duckie and Moose were also on the spectrum. Duckie as a high-functioning autist and Moose as another Aspie (the line between those is fine, but clear if you get to know the boys). One individual from the last group wondered aloud what horror Hubby or I must have done in our lives to have this “evil curse” of three out of five of our children, all our boys, being on the autism spectrum.
I was so taken back by this statement that this is only the second time I have mentioned it. However, my response to that person was simple, “Autism is not evil. It is not a curse.”
For our family, autism and Asperger’s simply mean a different way of thinking and gauging our responses. My boys are all wired differently than neurotyipcal children are. The rules their worlds operate under are not quite what most people expect. They are not cursed.
When he was younger, he would not hug or show any form of affection. Instead, he had rages and a fire that burned through and out of him so much that we were afraid it would burn him up. We had such a hard time comprehending it, though, because even before he could speak, he also burned for the Lord. Raising his hands in worship and prayer only to raise them to hurt himself or others at home.
We discovered that deep pressures like those involved in swaddling were very calming to him. Once he realized he could ask for that when he needed it, even if words were failing him, we were able to move on to other home therapies (even if we didn’t know we were doing those until later) like brushing and most recently oral stimulation. We used social stories to teach him how to empathize when he didn’t understand why someone was upset.
Now he is one of my first to hug and cuddle. He loves to read and will help any of the other children when they are struggling (and even if they aren’t). He still struggles with appropriate response to anger at all times, but he hasn’t had a full-blown rage in almost 2 months.
Pony-Boy’s favorite subject in homeschool is handwriting. He loves football, especially the Green Bay Packers, and the Incredible Hulk (because he is green). He aspires to grow up and play football for the Packers and be a professional dancer or a dancer.
Duckie has always been extremely sensitive both physically and emotionally. He was the original cuddler. He craved being held and rocked so much that we had to use giant stuffed animals to trick him into thinking he was being held just so we could get any sleep at all after he and Pony-Boy came home from the hospital. (Much love to all of you who co-sleep, but I have sensory issues all my own that prevent me from sleeping without covers on my bed.)
It took us longer to recognize that he was on the spectrum because of my own misconception. He was loving and gentle, neither of which fit the stereotype I had formed in my head. If it weren’t for one doctor reminding me that ASD kids are just as different from one another as neurotypical kids and that autism runs strong in family lines, I might not have learned to recognize his sensitivities as different sensory-seeking needs and the opposite end of the emotional spectrum as his twin.
Now, armed with that knowledge, we are walking the fine line between accepting that his needs are different and coddling him. We are also learning his different learning style and meeting him there so that he can thrive in his own fashion. His favorite homeschool subject is journal writing, where he makes up some very fantastical stories. When he grows up, he wants to be a baseball-playing dentist who makes raincoats for dogs and cats in his spare time.
When Moose first began showing himself as possibly being on the spectrum, we weren’t entirely sure if it was the way he really was or if he was just mimicking his brothers’ behaviors. I often comment to people that he is the perfect mix of the twins. He has Pony-Boy’s fire and Duckie’s sensitive side all wrapped up in one. Moose was nonverbal until about six months ago, when he began speaking as though he had been this whole time and we just hadn’t noticed. He still often finds words failing him, though, so we have begun working some with American Sign Language to give those words back to him.
We are still working with Moose to find the best home therapies, but he loves to bounce. He received a bouncing ball that you sit on for Christmas and we are probably getting a mini-trampoline soon. He doesn’t like brushing and will only tolerate deep pressure every now and then. He is a screen junkie, though, and would play Angry Birds all day and night if batteries never needed to be charged.
Technically speaking, Moose is too young to join us for our “official” homeschool lessons. However, he loves playing with blocks and absolutely adores the Crayola Air Brush set he got for his birthday. When he grows up, he wants to be himself. (Seriously, when asked, his answer was his own name. He doesn’t want that to change.)
For all the things that autism brings to the table in our family—passion, sensitivity, quietness—it does not bring an evil curse. On the contrary, God has used this to bless our family deeply with the love of these boys and the varied forms it comes (including an end zone dance).
Jennifer Medina recently began homeschooling her five children and started writing at MedinaMom to document the journey.
Photo credit: Jennifer Medina aka Medina Mom
For more information and giveaways of great products for Autism Awareness Month, please visit the landing page by clicking the graphic below: