Perfectly Quirky

Raising a Person with Autism

Month: August, 2012

“I Like Mommy”: Things That Make Your Heart Melt

S has never been much of a laugher. He was always a happy child, but we didn’t hear a real, true laugh until he was about a year old. My concerns over this were swiftly made lite of by S’s former pediatrician. “If he is babbling, you have nothing to worry about” he would say. Now I know better. S laughs now, but even though he is still very happy, the laughs don’t come very often.

Last night, while giving S his bubble bath,  I started to play a game where I would scoop up the bubbles in my hand and then give them a solid blow- sending them flying through the air and all over S. The laughter was contagious. I’m not sure I’ve ever really heard him laugh so hard for so long. And, as if this round of belly laughs from our sweet little boy wasn’t enough, his laugher paused for a second and while catching his breath he said:

“I like mommy”.

Heart. Melt. OMG.

Now for most parents of a two year old, hearing an expression- a verbal expression- of love might be something one expects or possibly even takes for granted. But, for a child that we thought would never speak, from whom we thought we would never hear those words, this was an amazing moment. I could have stood in it for an eternity. However, no sooner did S catch his breath that he requested more bubbles and we went back to our game. Fine by me- I could listen his laughter forever.

I’ve always known that S cares for us. It shows in his hugs, his smiles and even without those- in his happy demeanor. However, as a parent, it is still nice to hear it.

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Stimming: A Puppet Show for One?

When I was a kid, my mom was friends with a woman whose son has autism. Until recently, this child was my only real life example of what autism “looks like”. Looking back, and knowing what I know now, chances are that this child had some additional challenges that extended outside of autism. However, we knew he had autism, and it was obvious… to everyone that encountered him.

Why was it so obvious?.. because out of all of his autistic behaviors, the one that was the most pronounced, the one that made him stand out in every crowd, was the fact that he was almost always flapping his hands in front of his face. It was as if he had two hand-puppets on and he was putting on a puppet show… for himself. Everyone was invited to the viewing, but only he knew the story line. At the time, I just knew that this never-ending puppet show was how he was, pretty much all of the time, and I knew he did it because he was autistic. I now know that this is a self coping mechanism and it is called stimming.

To me, stimming was what autism “looked like”.

When concerns first started to arise that S may have autism, stimming was one of my worst fears. I feared that S would become like the kid I grew up with and that he would be lost in his own world with just his hand puppets flapping in front of him. I worried that a behavior like this would cause my son to stand out and be made fun of and I worried that it would push him deeper into his own world. So, it was much to my relief when S seemed to not develop this behavior.

Until now.

Last week, S started flapping his hands when he is angry or upset. It seems that he no longer takes off his shoes for that sensory release and he has now moved on to hand flapping. Over the past few days, it has progressed and he now also flaps when he is excited. His teacher noticed it yesterday and confirmed that that is what I am seeing. So, now the fear is back. I guess this is just one more uncertainty that we will have to work through. One more thing about autism that I need to accept and hope that I am able to help my son deal with appropriately. And quite frankly, it is one more thing that I will worry about.

Will this behavior progress further?  Will this cause him to stand out and, in turn, be singled out and made fun of? And will that, in turn, cause him to further retreat into himself?

Will he become the ‘puppet show kid’?