Here we are. Autism Awareness Month. Are you lighting it up blue? We do not in our house. Brandon likes the blue light and we sometimes put one in his room. For the rest of us who live here, the blue is really, really intense for us and we put some limits on the blue light bulb. He does, however, constantly have the disco light on in his room. That one is not nearly as jarring to our eyes. And, it’s nice to have when we are listening to the Bee Gees.
The definition of autism is as follows: A developmental disorder of variable severity that is characterized by difficulty in social interaction and communication by restricted or repetitive patterns of thought and behavior. Simple enough, right? What does variable severity mean? What kinds of difficulty with social stuff? Restricted or repetitive…could it be both? Patterns of thought? How do we figure that out when our son with autism has limited verbal skills? Good heavens, that’s a lot to get through. And overwhelming.
I like the Always Unique Totally Intelligent Sometimes Mysterious meme I have seen around for years. The old saying “if you know one person with autism, you know one person with autism” is spot on true. So, in honor of the first day of Autism Awareness Month, I challenged myself to use the letters of the word autism to help describe Brandon’s autism.
A – Brandon is always active. And I do mean always. The only time it seems he isn’t moving is when he is sleeping. He jumps, he fidgets, he spins his beads (Mardis Gras beads cut in half), he paces, he shakes his head, he swings, he jumps on the mini trampoline, he runs through the back yard, he walks, and on and on and on. He is constantly moving. Even when he is sitting, something is moving. He shakes his legs, he bounces up and down, and he rocks back and forth. Sometimes it is exhausting just watching him.
U – Brandon is undeniably persistent. If Brandon decides he wants something, he will continue to let us know. Depending on what it is, this could last for minutes, hours, days, weeks, or months. We are still working on getting him to stop perseverating about Mario Kart and that has been going on for months. But we are making progress. If he wants to go to the zoo with his respite support worker, we will hear about it until she shows up, which could be a few days away. But we still talk about it. A lot.
T – Brandon likes technology. Brandon loves his iPod. It’s the first thing he grabs in the morning and when he gets home from school. He also likes his laptop. He can navigate through the internet to find what he is looking for. He enjoys watching movies on his laptop and is able to find them easily. His favorite is Toy Story. This has been his “go to” movie for years when he is feeling restless. It helps calm him and he loves it. A few years ago, Steve noticed some charges on our Amazon account that we had not put there. We asked A and J if they had bought anything. Nope. We asked Brandon and he said “no”. But he had. We had three digital copies of Toy Story that he had purchased and a DVD was delivered that we did not know was coming. Thank heavens Steve is a computer genius and he was able to put a stop to that. Seriously, how many copies of Toy Story do we need?
I – Brandon is interested in animals. He loves to go to the zoo. He is really happy that spring is here and has already been a couple of times this year. He likes to go to Cabela’s and see the animals they have there. We walk around the store and look at all the animals and read the plaques that describe each one. At least once a day, someone has to talk about 5 animals with Brandon. We have to say at least three things about each animal we pick. Recently, I have noticed that he is saying that every animal lives at the zoo. So we are back to working on where the animals come from. Zebras live in Africa. And the zoo.
S – Brandon feels safe in his routines. Brandon has routines for everything. Getting ready for school, getting ready for bed, putting his clean clothes away, which books are read on which night, how we walk to and get in the car, how we navigate QT. Everyone has routines in their lives. For the most part, if my routine changes, I am able to get back on track with little effort. Brandon is not always able to do this. We try to prepare him if something is changing so he is aware. Sometimes he handles these changes well, and there are times when he does not and we just work through it.
M – Brandon is marvelously himself. He likes what he likes and is not shy about letting his opinions be known. He is not afraid to walk up to my niece, sniff her hair, and walk away. Of course, we have to watch that when we are at the store. Strangers aren’t always as nice about it as my niece is. He is funny, although he doesn’t always understand why. He is sweet and kind. He loves animals, he loves the computer, he loves reading his Little Critter’s Books with Steve. He likes cheering on the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs. He is who he is and that’s it.
His autism is a part of him. And we love all of him!