Friday, April 03, 2009

OTGF -Austism -A Good Thing!

Two things today -one is that this is OTGF -Only The Good Friday -where those of us participating are to write about only the good things we see in our lives and our surroundings and the other is a continuation of the Autism Awareness because, as you may have noticed on the blogs the past two days or so, April being Autism Awareness month, April 2nd was Autism Awareness Day and since I am the grandmother of two autistic children -who, along with their parents, also live with me, you've gotta know then that I definitely do believe Autism is really and truly a good thing and not the horrid ogre thing that many people may believe it to be.

So here I am -tooting that horn again about Autism!

I suppose, in a perfect world -were we all fortunate enough to reside in one of those -Autism would be considered a huge impediment too all those who have this disorder. But we don't live in that perfect world now do we? And, in my opinion, if I were told I had to choose something that would affect my family -my children, grandchildren -given some of the really bad diseases that exist, accidents and such that come along and disfigure, maim and yes, kill people -I definitely would consider autism to be a lesser of the evils, for sure!

Yes, I know there are some people with autism who do have really rough issues to surmount and we are extremely fortunate that my granddaughter, Maya -age 5 and her little brother, Kurtis, age 3- don't fall in that category of autistic children.

Trust me, I'm not trying to make light of this disorder -not at all.

To be gut-level honest, would I have chosen this path for my grandchildren? Certainly not! Because who among us wants to see our loved ones struggle to learn, to cope, to speak, to comprehend, to be able to function within our society?

But, knowing Maya and Kurtis as I do, would I change them now if I could? Not if it meant it would change the sweetness and innocence I see in them, day after day.

Would I opt to eliminate the meltdowns that occur? Oh not just yes, but HELL YES! It's very difficult to see them when they are upset and we are unable to explain to them the reasons behind whatever it is that threw them into this frame of mind and that their behavior is totally unfounded, completely illogical. How does one convey the essence of "Illogical" actions to a 5-year-old or a 3-year-old, anyway when often it can't even be shown to an adult who might be acting or reacting in an illogical way?

I don't necessarily subscribe the the "predestination" theory -well at least not as it applies in the religious sense. But I do believe there is much truth to the idea that all things happen for a reason although much of the time, we aren't privvy to what that reason might be. (Unless it is something that happens to us because we made some bad choice here and there along the way -like not studying enough, or purchasing the wrong item or well, a myriad of things that could apply to.)

Although there is some information that does say autism is or at least "can be" genetically based, I don't think that is the case with my grandchildren as we can't "trace" any others in previous generations on either side of the family trees as having a member with autism. But, I can say that maybe there is a bit of a tendency with the generation that my grandchildren belong to towards autism. The grandchild of a first cousin of mine on my Dad's side of the family is, much like Maya, in that she is autistic and high functioning. So maybe there is a smidgen of potential in that respect. Who knows.

I don't adhere to the theory that this was caused by vaccines either. Some will respond to that idea by telling me to get my head out of my nether parts, I'm sure, but I just don't buy that notion. It has not been proven, scientifically -in repeatable tests -that this is definitely a cause although certainly in some individuals who may already have had a predilection towards autism, I suppose it is possible it could trigger the emergence of the disorder.

But, when I look at the alternatives to vaccines or no vaccines, I'd much rather run any risk of the child having this disorder than to contract mumps, whooping cough, chicken pox, smallpox, measles and remember too, polio!

Has any child (or adult) died as a direct result of being autistic? Not so far as I am aware that hasn't happened. But children have died all too often in the past -before those vaccines were available -from diseases considered to be the normal childhood illness that were pretty much an everyday type occurance when I was growing up. Polio at that time was most certainly a dreaded illness and it wreaked death and/or debilitiation of terrible proportions then. Does anyone care to risk the prospect of that infecting their child when it can so easily be prevented? I sure don't! Nor does my daughter, the children's mother.

What I see as "good things" with my grandchildren and this disorder are how much more special it is to us when we see they have learned some little skill that in NT (neuro-typical) Children, would be pretty much taken for granted.

True, when my kids were small and learning to walk, talk, then later, in school and advancing, there was a certain amount of pride and praise that went with their achievements but not to the extent that we rave about Kurtis learning to say a new word today, or seeing what might be considered a minute improvement in coordination or the comprehension of how to "play nice" with another child when those things happen in our household. It could almost qualify as a celebration of a new national holiday here when these little things occur now because we've seen how important it is to learn those little things in order to succeed in life.

Some will say too that I am wrong in my thinking, my attitude about what constitutes a "successful" life. No, one does not have become a doctor, lawyer, president of a bank or of the United States to be considered a success. But to be able to live independently someday, to be able to function within society as a whole and be content -that, to me indicates at least some degree of success. And that's what I would like to see for my grandchildren -to be accepted for who and what they are and are able to do for themselves. They don't have to be rocket scientists, or teachers or an excutive of anything, any type. As long as they can learn and are given the opportunity TO LEARN -they can then do whatever makes them happy in life.

And seeing how well both my grandchildren have done with the various types of therapy they've received to date, will continue to receive; that the goal is to see to it they have the opportunity to continue to learn, to have supportive services that area necessary for them, to reach those goals, those things are so very important and excellent in the results that frequently are produced through them too.

I think that when I was growing up there may possibly have been just as many individuals who were autistic then as there are today but because so little was known about the disorder, virtually nothing was done to support the children or the parents, they often were regarded as mentally challenged, unable to learn, believed to be in the lowest category of abilities there and thus, often shunned by society and education programs or shuffled off to institutions becasue of the difficulties that are involved in adjusting one's life to their needs.

And yes, it does take some adjustments to living with children -or adults -with autism! Oh, most certainly! I can definitely attest to that.

But there again, here is my "good point" too on one side effect of living with an autistic child -it's given me a healthy dose of patience!

Patience is an attribute I was never known to be a recipient of in any great quantity! Ask my kids, they'll tell you that!

As a matter of fact, if I tell them some of the comments some of my fellow bloggers have made about their theories of what a patient and loving grandma I must be, the kids take the tact that I am actually more along the lines of Bill Cosby's description of being "An old person trying to get into heaven" or that this is totally not the same person that they grew up with!

And it's true too -well at least that I am not the same person as I was when my kids came along and were growing up. I wanted them to listen, to behave PROPERLY, to not mess anything up, to "sit up, shut up and eat" at meals and all of those things. When I took my kids with me as I delivered Avon orders back in those years, and they entered into my customer's homes with me, they were expected to do the routine "Children seen, not heard and certainly do not touch ANYTHING!" And, in that context, for the most part, my kids did obey then!

That's not something I would dare to do today with either Kurt or Maya! At least not at this juncture anyway. Maybe as each of them develop more skills, and comprehension, if I were still in that line of business, I would take them along but definitely not right now. Not if I still wanted to have those customers anyway! LOL To be fair to them, it would be grossly unfair to them if I were to inflict that kind of stuff on them too! (My kids would say it was grossly unfair that I did that with them when they were little too but that was different. That was them, then and this is now!

I suppose some are reading this and wondering gee, if you have to do all this therapy and stuff, and if the kids still don't behave the way you want them to and you have meltdowns and social interraction problems, academic problems and all that, then how can I dare say Autism is really a good thing?

It's easy!

Because they are all beautiful individuals! They brighten my life beyond compare!

And simply put, well gee, because I don't just love them, I adore them!

After all, they're the grandchildren and what could possibly be any better than that?

You got something better in mind -show me!


Jocelyn said...

This is the most loving, rational, well-thought-out explanation of the "gift" that autism is. One day, those grandkids of yours will grow up and write about how amazing their grandma was/is.

Mary said...


I agree with you wholeheartedly. There are much worse things that our grandchildren could be afflicted with other than autism. As I've seen Brandon advance over the years, there is a sense of celebration, a sense of accomplishment and a sense of undescribable pride. I too am a much different person today than when Michelle was young. Brandon has taught me many being patience.

I'm glad that he is learning to control his meltdowns. I'm glad that he is learning to communicate. I'm glad his social skills are improving. However, he will always struggle somewhat with these things. He will be able to live an independent life. He's now learning to be more responsible.

I continue to root and pray for Maya and Kurtis and am always glad to hear when they make headway.

Thank you for posting and promoting autism awareness.


HalfCrazy said...

Maya and Kurtis are certainly sweet kids, according from your posts and stories. What's good is that you treat them normal with extra special care because of their 'illness'.

When you mentioned vaccines, I remember I don't have them. My family was poor when I was born. I guess I can say I'm perfectly sane. My friends and almost anyone I know around my age have vaccines but they are perfectly sane but with a little hint of disorder here and there.

SnoopMurph said...

Excellent post and again, you handled all of those controversial and argumentative issues...vaccines, genetics, with aplomb.

I did chuckle when you talked about Bill Cosby (a favorite!) and how you expected your own children to behave so well, yet you have more understanding for the grandkids. I can see that in myself-being the tough one and keeping the expectations high for their behavior, yet to talk to my son's grandmothers, you would think they walk on water! You are one terrific grandma and Maya and Kurtis are so fortunate to have such a tremendous advocate in their corner.

Plus, I like having you in my corner as well! Thanks for all of your continued encouragement for my boys too!

Maggie May said...

I think that having children with autism and knowing EARLY is a great bonus.
Having a preteen diagnosed with it is another thing. Still the same child, but behaviour seems much worse than it was before. I would LOVE to know whether this is because my grandson now knows what condition he has and is playing on that now, or whether things get worse over the teen years, I do not know. No question of wanting to change him......... just some of the behaviour!
Might blog about it later. Apparently one in 59 people have the condition! Thats a lot!
No question about which illnesses or diseases are worse. Autism comes low on the list and yes..... these kids are special. Just that some of us have things sprung on us suddenly without much advice on HOW to get your kids to even look at a homework book let alone open the book and try...... even though teachers think the kid is bright! And this is the tip of the iceberg!

terri said...

The love and dedication you have for your grandchildren is beautiful. Thank you for showing us the positive side of autism.

Palm Springs Savant said...

Jeni- this is a beautiful post, well written and thoughtful. I hope lots of people read it and learn...