April = Autism Awareness Month


This is my part in RJ’s April Blog Tour for Autism Awareness
And it has a give-away!

Autism is everywhere these days, so most people know someone who have been given that diagnosis.

My two best friends both have a daughter diagnosed with autism. Both girls go to an ordinary school because one is of normal intelligence and the other is highly intelligent, so both manage to cope. Their intelligence is only part of the solution, though. In Belgium there is a system in schools where children with autism get special attention and this helps to keep them in mainstream schools. A few hours a week an extra teacher takes them out of class and works on social skills and interaction with other teachers and class mates. Of course, this isn’t nearly enough.

A child with autism also needs extra attention from parents. Forget simple homework supervision. Mainstream schools aren’t geared toward autistic children, even for children who otherwise function pretty well, which means they don’t offer the framework and straightforward rules an autistic child needs. Teaching a child three ways of dividing a complex number may be considered enrichment, but it spells chaos for an autistic child, unless they also give them straightforward rules when to apply what method. Or they specifically ask a child to use a certain method to solve a problem. Which leaves the parents to create extra structure for homework.

I applaud both sets of parents for guiding their daughters to fourth and sixth grade respectively.

For me personally, interacting with these girls was a steep learning curve as well. I don’t have children of my own, so I had a double problem (and it was entirely MINE, trust me 😉 ) Don’t get me wrong, they are both great girls, but you have to make certain allowances when you spend time with them. Putting irony or sarcasm into your speech is out of the question. You soon realize from their reaction that this form of humor is totally lost on them. They also take you literally. If you tell them you’ll help them later with their homework, you better be ready to do so, because they’ll bug you about it until you do!

There’s an upside to it as well. Both girls are easy to trust, because you can give them rules and they’ll stick to them. Religiously. I can already see that at age 16 or 18 one of their mothers is going to have to explain that it’s okay to go to second base with their boyfriend. I hope she doesn’t forget, because if she does, she’s going to have a hard time explaining this to the boyfriend!
In short, I’ve found interacting with both young ladies an enrichment. It’s made me look at how I interact with people and has made me very straightforward. It has also shown me how many times we brush someone off, saying we’ll do something later and then don’t. Or how easily we say things in jest, expecting others to get that we don’t really mean what we say.

On a more general level, I see that a lot of people get marked as autistic when this wouldn’t have been the case ten years ago. For some it’s a stigma, for others it’s a means to an end, because they’re more likely to get the help, or the credit, they need.

I work in Computer Software and there are no better software testers than autistic people, because they are meticulous, persistent and have no problem doing the same things over and over again in exactly the same way.

All in all, I think we need to respect all people, and understand that some of them will react differently from the norm. And that this doesn’t automatically make them worse, or better, than people who are considered part of that norm.

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Zahra Owens - Clouds and Rain Audiobook
Zahra Owens – Clouds and Rain Audiobook


Now for the give-away…
I’m giving away one copy of my first audiobook Clouds and Rain to one lucky commenter.

Tell me a little about what you know about autism, what your own prejudices are concerning autism and what you’ve done to combat them and you may get your hands on the audiobook of this bestselling novel! (you have more than a week to enter. Winner will be announced April 10th) Giveaway is reopened and lasts until the end of the month!



If you can’t wait that long, there’s a discount on everything at Dreamspinner Press on March 31st and April 1st for Easter!

And please check out the other posts in the blog hop!


8 Comments

  1. my dad was 50 when he found out he had aspbergers. I know it had been tough for him growing up wondering what was wrong and like NOT having that label of autism to explain things. it did help HIM see he was not stupid when he did get the diagnosis and he did get help understanding it when he did find out

    parisan_ca@yahoo.com

    1. Sometimes it helps to give it a name. It often explains a lot to the person, even if it happens long after you “need” the label.
      I learned to label a few things in my life after my 40th birthday and it sure explained a lot!
      Like with your dad, it helped give things a place.

  2. My 14 year old nephew has Aspbergers. He is very popular, an excellent student, and a scarily precocious artist. He received treatment at age two–occupational and speech therapy, play therapy. Early intervention is key. He has been mainstreamed his entire school life, even though some of his teachers don’t want to be bothered with his literally minded honesty and his focus on what HE wants to do. He is a darling–funny, geeky, sweet. Tactless, (“Auntie, you should be able to draw at least a little, since you’re so old. But you can’t.”) His mother championed treatment for him at about 18 months, when he suddenly became mute and was diagnosed. Sigh. He wants a Wacom tablet and Adobe CS for his birthday. My poor sister!

    Urb
    brendurbanist at gmail dot com

    1. Sounds familiar!
      The highly intelligent one from my story was diagnosed that early as well. She’s ten and still has schedules in pictures around the house, although by now, she can draw them herself.
      She’s also terribly frank. (“Why aren’t you married yet? Are you a lesbian? Because they can get married now too, you know.”)

  3. I do have a young cousin on the spectrum, but don’t know him very well (he lives far away). I guess I’ve been one to occasionally fall prey to the “someone’s brilliant but blunt? must have Asperger’s!” assumption sometimes, but after reading more about it, I’ve learned there’s more to it than that.

    1. The thing that’s hard to understand, unless you’ve come into contact with many autistic people, is that they run the gamut. Asperger’s been in the news a lot these last years, but that’s just a very mild form, usually in high-functioning people. It’s almost become a fashion thing.
      But I’ve come into contact with people who avoid eye-contact and exhibit strange behaviors, almost like caged animals (pacing, rocking back and forth while sitting on a chair,…). I’ve also met people who look quite ordinary, but if you dig deeper, have an actual conversation with them, it starts to become clear that communication is not a natural thing for these people.
      And then you meet the oldest of the two girls I wrote about, and she won’t stop talking. Her communication skills are great, yet, a lot of is is learned behavior.

  4. I work with young children in my job and have taken care of a few Autistic children. The little ones I have cared for have been sweet, quiet children that love to laugh. They each have their own hang ups, no moving things that they have put down or touching their backs, but nothing that deserves ridicule by others.
    OceanAkers @ aol.com

    1. I love the way you describe them. They have their hang-ups, like many non-autistic children have as well. All they need is a little care and awareness. A little individual attention, but then every child does in my eyes.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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