By Lisa Ackerman
Many who are not affected by autism are curious about it. They should be, a once rare condition now affecting 1 in every 88 children (1.)
Over the years, I have been asked many interesting questions: What is autism? Why is autism on the rise? Can my kid catch it?
The hardest question: What special gift does your child with autism have?
I know that each child with autism has incredible gifts, but is overcoming a devastating and challenging diagnosis a special gift or talent?
Maybe some ask in reference to the movie Rain Man and the character’s ability to count cards in Las Vegas? Or the adult with autism able to briefly view a skyline and draw from memory? Or who could forget J Mac (Jason McElwain) and his incredible high school basketball game with six – three pointers in the final minutes.
It may be easier for people not affected by autism to just talk about these special gifts. I, on the contrary, see most of these children very affected by their label, usually with a myriad of health issues (as confirmed in a new study reference 2.)
We know that each child living with autism can be very different. I am sure you’ve heard the expression “every child is different like every snowflake”. This is so true for every child diagnosed with autism. The percentage of kids with “special gifts” is probably the same percentage as in neuro-typical kids with special gifts. But then again, I haven’t seen a study on that (and please do not suggest one– we have other priorities to tackle, such as why are so many kids with an autism diagnosis sick?)
Before you ask “what trick can your kid with autism do?”, why not ask “what can I do to help your family living with autism?” (Please see reference 3.) I believe that is a much better way to start a conversation and learn more about this subject.
For families living with autism, use this blog to introduce yourself and to let other family and friends know how they can help you!
Amen to that … so many people think autism means somebody is a little goofy and a stud on the piano.
My grandson can eat up his medical yearly deductible before spring until this year! He’s getting better. It took til July!
It seems that when it comes to autism, there are two extremes of perception. One is pity for the individual and his or her family for the plight of their “suffering.” The other perception is that of the “autistic savant,” an individual severely disabled and yet capable of seemingly inhuman feats of memory, instant recall, or musical aptitude. It is unfortunate that in this day and age, the stereotype of Rain Man still persists, as elucidated in Lisa Ackerman’s blog. As Ackerman correctly asserts, we ALL possess gifts and talents. If someone “appears” significantly impaired on the surface, it only makes their gifts and talents seem all the more extraordinary. But when we presume intellect, the “extraordinary” talents may be correctly interpreted as simply part and parcel of the manner in which our Creator has deigned to designate each of us with unique ways in which to render service to others. –William Stillman, autism spectrum author, consultant and self-advocate, and Editor-in-Chief, SilverXord Publications
Not a question I enjoy either. Buuuut, it’s another opportunity to educate, I’d rather have people ask me, and listen to my answer, than to go on making assumptions.
Well, it’s a little sarcastic, but when people ask what amazing skill does my son have (like Rainman)? I respond with “He can go an amazing length of time without pooping or sleeping.” A puzzled look immediately appears, and then I explain that savant autism is rather rare and that most of these kids are just plain sick.
Love the comments! In the early days this question drove me crazy when my son was non verbal and constantly stimming! I always used the time to educate.
I was totally sick of hearing dozens of times “Einstein didn’t talk until he was 6!” I would of much rather talked about WHY he wasn’t talking!
This blog may help with that! ~ Lisa
Yes, people just comment on a certain ability my son that his doctors have said it’s a “savant skill”. When other people comment on it, I say, “well isn’t that great and all, but do you know how much effort we’ve had to put in to help him get ahead–to make people understand that there is much more to this kid than what might seem an “extraordinary” talent? How long it’s taken us to help him demonstrate what he is capable of due to underlying medical issues? All the IEPs, watching his diet to make sure it’s allergy-free, endless nights looking at research and trying to find other avenues to help him, all the ABA therapy, the blood tests, all the EEGs, all the tantrums–thankfully a long time ago– all the days mostly in silence until almost 6 yrs. old; and now, all the effort we still have to put in to advocate as some of his skills can also fall on a much lower range”? But you know what, regardless, as a parent, I owe my kid the respect of giving him a fair chance to realize any goals he might have. Even if I need to help him find what those goals might be, I also expect anyone who works with him to offer the same respect, ask questions and work with us as part of a team to understand the road we’ve all had to travel to get him to the point where he is at today. For our family, a long road, but not without love and hope!
Some how I must not know, or hang around the same types of people that y’all do… In the 5 years since his diagnosis I can not think of a single instance that a person has asked me anything like this.
I have had to school “adults” and other kids when they make faces at him when he is trying to talk to them… Funny how the kids can get past that but the adults are stupid and so easily offended (never mind the offense they had just laid out with their verbage to one another and their childish faces they make)…
My kid can make doctors eat crow! After being diagnosed with autism and told he might be mentally retarded (IQ 85), my son taught himself to read at age 2! Suck on that developmental pediatrician! He also used to have an amazing ability to draw large scale wall art. Medium: poo.