This is the third post in our series, “This is Autism,” which captures snapshots of our children’s lives across the entire spectrum.
Yellow adds sparkle to the spectrum. Yellow is sunshine. It demands your attention as it permeates your life. That’s my son. To fully understand the spectrum you need to know the child whose challenges puzzle you while his engagement fills you with hope and joy.
When he was an infant, I could easily see my son’s developmental challenges. There was no period of normal development. He did not sit well until he was eighteen months. I took him to have his portrait taken at a year, and I propped him up with pillows to prevent him from falling backward. He did not walk until he was six years old. After months of occupational therapy, the therapist flatly said, “He can walk. He just doesn’t seem to want to!”
Fine motor skills were another mystery. When I handed him a pencil, he let it roll off his hand. He cannot tie his shoes or button his shirt. His therapists still make long lists of goals that I review with a sinking feeling. Tasks learned through imitation always seem to be very difficult for him.
Speech also developed slowly for my son. There have been hours of ABA discrete trials to say new words, each reinforced again and again. For years all his words were responses to questions. Sentences were part of social scripts. Every person who comes to our house still talks with him about the TV because he says “TV” to every new visitor. Now his words are part of conversations.
He’s like a volcano erupting and spewing forth words in his desire to connect with others. He demands to participate even when it takes great effort. Our dinner table conversations are like refereeing a talking contest. He sometimes talks just to be part of the conversation, even if no one is responding to him. He has even learned to type over time so that he can write words that are hard to verbalize. I am often reminded of the saying, “Not being able to talk does not mean you have nothing to say.” He has lots to say.
My son’s desire to connect with others does not fit most definitions of autism. However, yellow is part of this complex spectrum. His joyful desire for relationships drives and challenges him daily. It teaches me never to let a label define the human spirit. As he grows and learns, he draws people in. One teacher said,” You know everyone wants to work with your child because he is so much fun!”