I remember the psychologists sitting with us and telling us that we had until Ethan was 7 years old or we would miss the opportunity to take advantage of his brain’s development. They told us that if we missed that opportunity it would be too late. My issue with these professionals is that they talk with such confidence as if they know everything and everything they do know is fact. No wonder most of us parents lose the hope when our kids with autism reach that age and don’t progress. We think “this is it, this is the end.” I started teaching Ethan at the age of 10 and he has blossomed ever since. All I did was change the way we teach. Our brain is always growing, and the more you stimulate the brain the more it will develop. If they keep torturing our kids with the same program, yes, they will ensure and prove that our kids are unable to learn.
I doubt we will ever know the truth about the link between autism and vaccinations. For those of us who already have autistic children, the answer is moot. For those in government the stakes are too high for them to admit that there is a link as the ensuing backlash from the general population will be huge. The idea that parents will refuse to vaccinate their kids and the specter of massive outbreaks of previously controlled diseases is their worst nightmare. They will do anything in their power to ensure the status quo where every parent vaccinates their kids. They are so scared that they have take every opportunity to display the pros of vaccination and have even planted subliminal messages in every TV program that they are able. Some governments (such as California) have even gone as far as passing laws that allow a 12 year old to make decisions regarding vaccinations without parental consent. They are too young to vote, but of course they have the maturity to evaluate the trade-offs of vaccinations.
According to the dictionary, linear learning is a “process of learning following a step-by-step progression where a response to a step must be given before another step is taken.” Unfortunately, most people believe that most autistic kids learn linearly. In my experience with Ethan and most of the other kids, I have helped to teach, this is not true. Most of our kids learn differently, they are visual learners. When Ethan was first starting to learn word recognition, he learned the word scissors before he learned the word cat.
We found the same was true when we taught skip counting. The standard model of teaching says that we start by teaching the child to count in twos. Linear teaching (and learning) requires that the child master counting in twos before they progress to the next step. However, most of our kids find counting in twos very difficult and we in fact start by teaching them to count in tens, then hundreds, etc., until we finally get to the twos. We teach them in a non-linear manner as they learn in a non-linear manner.
I have always dreaded the day when I would have to write about Autism and puberty. However, because it is so important, I have to share this with you. This is one time when a little preparation can save major heartache down the road. Research shows that many of our kids, especially the nonverbal ones, are sexually abused because they were never taught the “right things”.
Before I scare you too much, for the sake of our kids, read this with an open mind and an open heart. There have been too many kids arrested for public indecency even though the police know the child has special needs. They leave it to the courts to decide, but in the meantime, your child may sit in jail. Unfortunately, one of our friends had her nonverbal autistic child removed from school for touching a female’s exposed belly button. His parents agreed to remove him from school to avoid the girl’s parents from pressing charges and him being branded a sexual offender for life.
For many years we thought that Ethan had poor memory. That is what we were told. I remember the ABA teachers spent 2 years trying to teach him the letters A, B and C and the numbers 1, 2 and 3. According to their data, if he couldn’t master those simple letters or numbers, why should they go forward and teach him other academic skills. They refused to teach him typing because he could not even remember the few letters that they had been trying to teach for 2 years. It was time to give up, to stop being in denial that he is unable to learn and teach him how to do functional skills. Obviously, we did not listen!
In most of the research relating to autism, the most common word are “memory deficit”, “impaired memory”, “memory disorder”, “poor memory” and “memory loss”. However, this is a description of the symptoms not the causes.
When Ethan was very young, he hardly slept and always had the urge to run away. Luckily, we used to live in building with a 24 hour doorman and the doorman was always there to make sure that Ethan never got away.
We moved to a house and we thought we had everything under control. We put bungee cords around the front door handles and a deadbolt to make sure that Ethan could not leave. One morning at 5:30am we were woken up by a loud banging on the front door. It was the police. They entered the house aggressively and demanded that my husband get his wife (that’s me) right away. The police had found Ethan wondering the streets with just a T-shirt on and wanted to arrest us for being negligent with our special needs son. He is nonverbal and could not tell them where he lived. They had asked people in the streets if they knew where this child lives. The neighbors guided them to our house.
After we showed the police all the extent to which we had tried to prevent him from leaving, they became more lenient and even tried to suggest other ways to keep him safe.