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.
What’s the Password?
Having a secret “password” with your child could be a lifesaver. Come up with a simple, easy to remember word for a password and teach your child to remember it (if they are verbal)
Tell your child that if someone they do not recognize tries to pick them up, they need to ask the stranger for the password. If the stranger does not know the password, then instruct your child to run away and/or call for help.
A few years ago we went to a lecture about the benefits of massage for children (and adults) with autism. We knew about the benefits of a good massage on ourselves (who doesn’t) but we had never really thought about a massage for our autistic son Ethan.
It is a common misconception that kids with autism do not want to be touched. It is not true, they just need more time to adjust as they have a heightened response to overstimulation.
The lecturer explained that the primary benefit that massage provides to autistic children is relaxation. They told us that relaxation can combat fatigue and anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve energy levels, sleep, creative ability, and the thinking process. After a soothing massage, autistic children have shown more focus and are less high strung.
Statistics is a scientific tool that is used to describe the characteristic of different samples and to help describe uncertainty. Like any tool, statistics can be used wisely or misused. Standardized tests are tests that are used to measure how well a person performs and then compare them to the rest of the population, statistically that is.
When Ethan was young and we had just started teaching him, the school district required that we test him. We agreed but insisted that we be present during the test so that we could observe him.