By Melissa Lake – Guest Contributor
HBO is currently featuring a story about one of the most wonderful autistic people you would ever imagine. Her name is Temple Grandin. She was diagnosed with infantile autism, and, at the time, her doctors recommended that she be institutionalized. However, she achieved success in spite of her disabilities, as she earned a doctorate degree, and is actually now Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University. As a crusader for the humane treatment of cattle, she understands they will eventually be slaughtered, but believes that they should be treated with compassion and respect before being dispatched. How the process is handled could mean the difference between fear and calmness in the animals. She also understands that many people who eat the livestock actually care about their last moments as well.
My son, Logan, was also diagnosed with infantile autism. He is much like Dr. Grandin, but is different in many other ways. For instance, while she does not like hugs or physical attention, Logan, is the opposite. He finds his Paraprofessional immediately upon arrival and immediately grabs a hug. They have a bond and she treats him appropriate for his mental age, without handicapping his abilities.
I want to share more experiences about my son now. Logan loves bubbles so very much, and I just recently had an “aha” moment while watching yet another episode of his favorite cartoon, Spongebob Squarepants. Every time Spongebob runs, bounces, or whatever, he is accompanied by bubbles. It only took me ten years to make that connection! Logan has recently found an amazing joy for Lego’s, he will take a platform plate to hold the legos and show the Spongebob character or Krusty Crab dinner table he has created.
Logan does not find offense in looks, sneers, and such. In fact, he does not realize that not everyone is not like him. To put it simply, he finds what he likes and he works towards finding a bond with that person or thing. If we all could learn from him and his love for people and animals we would know the patience and kindness that needs to be given to our special children. Stimulating himself is something that comes easy to him, and may come in the form of licking his finger, jumping on a trampoline, or swinging in his favorite bedroom hammock chair.
One thing I have learned about myself: I have learned from my own meltdowns, severe or not, is that I bead sweat on my face as I get nervous, and start tensing up as I get more stressed. Finally, I find myself choosing to react in a positive way or just taking a deep breath and remembering that this situation too shall pass. Yes, I know this story is about Logan, but we need to also consider the caretakers and their reactions.
Among the vast variety of information I have been reading over the last 7 years, I have been gifted the most wonderful guide to Autism one could ever pray for. It is titled “10 Things Your Child with Autism Wants You to Know.” There’s also a teacher’s book for “10 Things Your Student with Autism Wants You to Know.” One thing I have learned from the book was that a child with autism does not pre-meditate his actions, and does not understand when you tell him/her that you told them a thousand times not to do something.
To conclude this article, Logan talks often of being a doctor or professor. In fact, all of my children aspire to be involved with the care of mankind or animals alike. So please, check out the HBO program, the book, and any other resources that might help you learn more about autism. The more we educate each other, the better chance that there will be many more success stories like that of Temple Grandin.