You can't believe his intense focus when he plays with his toys."He's going to be an engineer."
You repeat his name over and over again. "He's such a snob."
You finally reach out to a professional and ask a simple question. "He lines up all his toys. Is that normal?"
The answer? Most likely your first inquiry will be ignored. So ask again and again until you're heard. You'll be okay, I promise because I went through this. There is a silent grace to autism. No matter how hard you work to reach your child, no matter how much you cry over his future struggles, there will always be this beautiful untouchable part of his spirit that belongs to this strange puzzle of the mind, or the nervous system, or the ether of the soul. Who knows? But it will be okay.
Here are a few of my tricks of the trade.
During my son's nonverbal years, he loved his shows. We had a stack of DVD's he'd throw fits in front of until I guessed the right one. I took the DVD's out and put them in a Case Logic. Next I taped the empty DVD cases shut and placed them on a shelf he could easily access. Here's the hard part. I had to stretch my patience and ability to sit back and not jump in to solve the problem. We started small. All Will needed to do was indicate somehow which show he wanted. We moved on to pointing his finger. I showed him over and over what I wanted, then played the role of cheerleader for even the smallest step in the right direction. We went from slapping the cases to pointing at them to grunting sounds to saying "want" to making word combinations. Maybe you won't reach the words part, but don't discount sign language, which you can add after the pointing stage. (pointing is a huge deal, so don't give up on that)
Winter time was a nightmare with my son because he refused to wear his coat. The fits were insane! So here's what I came up with and for whatever reason it worked like a dream. "One arm, two arms." Can you believe it? Just that line in a singsongy voice as you hold the coat up for him to slip one arm in, then the other. I'm telling you it's magic. It works with pants and shoes too! "One leg, two legs." "One foot, two feet."
Reading. Goodness, this is tough. My son has an amazing memory; the words free float in his mind instead of him putting them together to create concepts and connections. I took his favorite story books (Cars, Scooby, Bob the Builder...) and wrote little captions on the pages using words he knew and referring to the pictures displayed. "Do you see the moon?" Keep it simple and stick to your captions when you read the books. Make sure to throw in questions so you have a better chance at getting a response from him.
Stimming. Yikes! We lived in a house with a galley kitchen through his toddler years. I ran that boy into the ground. "I'm gonna get you" is universal for all abilities. We laughed and ran. I wore him out maybe five or six times in the thousands of laps. Only thing with this trick, which helped greatly at centering him and calming him down for the rest of the day, was he went through a smacking phase. I do not like to be smacked. Make sure you quickly address that before it becomes ingrained. Life is too hard to throw hitting on top of it.
If you have any tricks you want to share, please do. Will is closing in on eleven and he acts like a petulant teen already. We struggle with homework and class participation. He has bouts of mimicking (echolalia) that usually have to run its course until he's calm enough to take a breath and be quiet for a bit. Do you have a story to share?
Will at the Special Olympics. He tried to make the runners even by slowing down. He wanted everyone to win. He really is so neato!