Monday, March 3, 2014

Autism, EKGs, and My Best Friend

I originally thought about naming this post, Autism from the Outside, but I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. This is not just about Autism. This is about my spectacularly impressive best friend, my genius godson, and the way I view Autism from the outside.

Here are some facts about Autism from
  •  Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. People with ASDs handle information in their brain differently than other people.
  •   ASDs are "spectrum disorders." That means ASDs affect each person in different ways, and can range from very mild to severe.
  •    By age 2, a diagnosis by an experienced professional can be considered very reliable.
  •    CDC estimates that about 1 in 88 children has been identified with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
  •    There is currently no cure for ASDs.

Here are some things I have learned from my interactions with Autism
  •  People with ASD are LOVELY.
  •  They tend to be some of the smartest people I know.
  •   It’s nothing to be afraid of.
  •   We all have our quirks, theirs just has a name.

 Meet my beautiful best friend Chelsea and her perfect little boy Carter.
(The picture is's not your screen. I hope...)

I met Chelsea in second grade. We’ve been best friends for close to 16 years. She is the ying to my yang, and we've always been total opposites. I was Maid of Honor at her wedding, and there for the birth of my goddaughter. The biggest fight we’ve ever had was in third grade. She stole my ball and wouldn’t give it back so I kicked her. (I remember it… she doesn’t.) She’s one of the most intelligent people I’ve ever met, and the most dedicated mother I’ve ever seen. Aside from being a full-time mother to two beautiful children, she also works full-time as an EKG/EEG tech. Sometimes she gets stressed. It's VERY understandable.

Chelsea works very hard and has the patience of a Saint. Seriously, I saw it when Carter once sliced his finger open in a Whole Foods Store. There was blood every where and she just calmed him down, walked him to the front, and got him a band aid and juice. She's my hero.

My hero recently got some news that her little boy was extra special. Carter was diagnosed with being on the spectrum for Autism. I honestly believe we all have a little of it in us…hence the reason it's a spectrum. Alas, I am not a paid medical professional and can’t say my opinion has any weight to it.

If you know Carter like I do you know that he is smart, oh my goodness is he smart, well spoken, lovable (most of the time), and always ready to get into something. This is the Carter I’ve always known. So, when my best friend told me he was tested and found to be on the spectrum, nothing changed. He’s the Carter I’ve always known. He didn’t change overnight with the diagnosis. He didn’t care if he was Autistic, red, purple, or the King of Egypt, just as long as he has crayons.

This is how I view Autism from the “outside.” It affects about ten percent of the people I know. I’ve taken numerous classes on how to approach children with Autism. I know more statistics about this disability (I hate that word), than any other learning disability out there. I’ve lived with grown-ups with Aspergers, I’ve taught around 50 children with varying degrees of Autism, and my godson is very special.

Autism is big. It’s getting bigger all the time. Watch the statistics and you’ll see the "1 in (number of children)" getting rapidly worse. We don’t know what it really means, where it’s coming from, or how to ease it’s effect on some.

Here’s how I see it. This is how they are. Just like you are the way you are. These children grew up this way, and haven’t changed. Just because you come in at some point in their life, and they act differently than you’re use to doesn’t make them different. It makes you different. You’re the variable, not them. It’s just a process of feeling out what the best way to handle a situation is.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on this. I’ve never been to a doctor’s appointment for diagnosis. I don’t currently live with anyone who has Autism, and when I teach Autistic students we learn as we go. 

The thing I do know for sure is this. If you saw Carter you’d love him...instantly. You wouldn’t know that sometimes he gets upset for no reason, or that he REALLY loves to tell you about all of his movies...ALL OF THEM. You wouldn't even know that he can read several years above his reading level at only three years old. You would see nothing wrong, and you would treat him like a normal three year old. Just like you should.

That’s the beauty of viewing Autism from the outside. All you see is the best in all of them.

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