Monday, April 6, 2015

What Does Autism Look Like To You?

The day before Autism Awareness Day, my daughter was talking to her teacher about autism privately in the class as they had been discussing wearing blue for autism awareness the next day.  She told her teacher, "My brother has autism, but he doesn't look like he does."  Her teacher is aware that Austin is on the autism spectrum and they have met as well.  I was surprised when she told me this story, I did not know that she thought autism had a certain "look".  I have explained that people on the spectrum have all sorts of strengths and challenges.  I did address it quickly asking her what that was supposed to mean but my husband told me to let it go and discuss it another time, I was reluctant, but I did.

The next day I started to think of where Kaleigh would get this idea from since she complains a lot about Austin's behaviours.  Just a few are:  "Why does Austin always make noise?"  "Why does Austin want to be alone so much?"  "Why is Austin such a picky eater?"  "Why does Austin always want to talk about facts?"  "Why does Austin hum a lot?"  "Why does Austin get bullied so much?"  The one that really hurt my heart, she asked once (not her fault at all that it hurt because, well, kids are honest), and it still shakes me, "Why doesn't Austin have any friends?"  (Tough, that was a tough one.  I do have to say, even though Austin is not the social bee Kaleigh is, he does have a few friends.  One lives down the street and they play more and more each day as they are the same age and like some of the same games. YIPPEE!  It makes me happy to see Austin interact and have fun!)

Another situation was Kaleigh's party we had a little while ago.  We all went bowling, and of course, Austin gets too excited and annoys Kaleigh easily.  The lady that was working at the bowling alley that day gave Austin his own lane to play in at no extra charge.  Even though we offered to pay, she would not take the money.  She could see he was struggling amongst the other children and wanted everyone to have a good time at the party.  Austin went on to play happily and Kaleigh stopped asking me "Why does Austin have to act so weird all the time?"  He was over stimulated and frustrated that the other children did not want to follow the rules of the game, they just wanted to roll the balls down the lane, no points, no winner, just for fun!  Why not?  It is a party after all!  Austin, does not see it that way, ever!

I am still a little shocked that Kaleigh said this to her teacher.  I am not sure what she thinks autism looks like.  She sees Austin as her brother and even though she gets annoyed by some of his behaviours, he in turn gets annoyed by her behaviours too!  Sounds pretty much like most siblings!  I have quite a few, so I get it!

I am curious to see if Kaleigh really understands about autism and Austin's behaviours, so I am going to sit down and ask her, "What does autism look like to you?".  I am very interested to hear her answer.  I am sure you know, there will be a post about it!

All the best!


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