Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Myth vs Reality

I got to thinking over the last few weeks about the confusion I felt in Bob's early days of wandering through AutieLand.
Prior to his diagnosis I researched exhaustively, desperately searching for clues that would pin a name on the bizarre collection of strange behaviours he was exhibiting.

Of course the word  Autism appeared, but I was constantly perplexed by the fact that he often just didn't fit the pictures I was reading about. I spent 15 months on a sickening see-saw of "he has no speech (autism!) , but he has a wicked sense of humour (not autism!)", "his eye contact is poor (autism!), but he loves cuddles (not autism!)" etc etc etc. It nearly drove me insane with worry and uncertainty. Hey, we've all been there, and got the t-shirt/depression/addiction (delete as required) to prove it. Personally, I'd prefer the t-shirt, but my pickled liver and depleted serotonin levels tell another story.
It made me question the myths that surround autism, partly promoted by films like Rainman (which I love, but Bob has trouble counting 5 matchsticks never mind 432 in an eyeblink.....he might eat them though..), but mostly they grew out of lack of knowledge and experience.

The myths are sometimes comical, but are never helpful.

So, because our kids are definitely not mythical creatures let's pick a small handful of fallacies to point and laugh at ...

(a) Autie kids do not feel love
...before you gallop down to the wilds of Monaghan to string me up by my perfectly manicured toes, I know this myth is a pile of poo. Of course our kids love us. Any of us who has cuddled a sick child while watching Dora for the gazillionth (yes, that's a real number *ahem*) time, or got their ears pulled, or their face licked by a kid who just expresses love in that way, knows what it means. Maybe they can't verbalise "I love you mammy" but when we tune into their language we get what they mean.

(b) Autie kids only communicate with us to get their needs met....duh!!! What kid doesn't???

(c) Autie kids have no imagination. How many of you have been told that your child has no imagination?.
Lack of imagination is considered such a strong indicator of autism that it's presence is central to it's diagnosis.
Hmmmm. Now I don't doubt for a second that Bob is autistic...(he's just too damn handsome to be anything else)...but I do question that many of the accepted traits of autism are more myth than fact. Over the past few weeks I snapped a few shots of Bob dressing up in other people's clothes, and playing house with his sister....hmmm...imagination at work methinks.... yet he's still autistic.

                                                      Bob wearing my couture pj's

                                                    Bob wearing "daddy's blue t-shirt"

                                         Bob wearing his sister's bunny slippers (great pins, eh?)

Dressing up is an integral part of evolving imagination, as kids "try on" roles (echos of empathy anyone?) of other people, mentally as well as physically.

(d) Autie kids shun company

Bob and his sister play pretend...together

(e) Autie kids have a special "gift" that compensates for their problems in other areas.
Please stop laughing, I'm being serious!
Now, of course Bob paints art deco masterpieces while performing piano concertos with his toes (when he's not busy correcting Stephen Hawking's Theory of Everything...give the kid a chance!)...but otherwise he's a perfectly normal autie kid.
I know I really don't need to spell it out, but most autie kids are not savants. Otherwise, there'd be a lot of very wealthy autie parents out there who wouldn't need to beg, borrow and steal services for their kids.

(f) autie kids are painfully beautiful....
....now THAT one is true.

Our kids are as individual as the hair on our  heads. 

 They can't be numbered in a catalogue, just recited as poetry.


  1. Love it love it love it... I'm so glad you blogged on this as it is something that we cross everyday with peoples misconceptions of autism. Munchkin shows me affection in her own way, has amazing imaginative skills and enjoys being around other children. Does this mean that her diagnosis is wrong?? Hell no, when she's eating coal, or running around naked in the winter and cannot tell me about her day without massive visual prompts I still see the aspergers. The one gift that she has is that she has the ability to turn me to jello with a smile :) Apart from that, nothing remarkable that is going to keep me in luxury when I'm old and grey (feck it... old and pink!)

    I do agree with your last point... I have never seen an unattractive child on the spectrum, in fact they are stunning with their beauty, both inner and outer xx

  2. Ah but my guy is obviously more handsome than the rest !! Great blog as usual and love all the myths dispelled, so many people still believe them.. "he can't be autistic he is too clever " anyone ?? Susan F

  3. Fabulous blog Jean:) I look at HRH and even though I know in my heart that he is autistic I can see why other people don't believe me. I do *try* to be grateful that people have some knowledge of Autism, and *try* to be patient because they don't get the 'spectrum' idea. I absolutely agree with every single point you made and it kind of straightened it out in my head because it would all have been mushed together a bit. Bob is a very handsome young man, as is HRH. Why can't MY skin be that good?! Jen (** means not always possible as just too wrecked from dealing with myths)

  4. Brilliant blog Jean.
    You're the truth-meister and you make me laugh

  5. Thank you so much.
    I wasn't even sure what I was gonna write when I sat down and ignored my kids for an hour this evening.
    I suppose it laso makes me appreciate how hard it must be to diagnose autism sometimes...the spectrum could include us all at times.
    Petunia...what is it with our kids and coal???
    Susan, I think joint 1st prize for being gorgeous goes to all auties (except Bob who gets super-1st...hey, it's MY blog!!)
    Thanks for your unending support Andra
    Jen, I never met you but we seem to be like two lovely peas in a fabulous pod..
    ...and now I accept this oscar...oh, i can't continue, I'm crying and my mascara is ruining my ralph lauren dress XXX

  6. (ok, I might be wearing manky trackies and a ratty hoodie either)

  7. sarah, pml at the "truthmeister" xxx

  8. Very true and very funny as well!

  9. Does this mean that I can't bring Bob to Vegas? How am I going to make my fortune now? He is indeed a beautiful boy.

  10. Well I got into trouble many a time for pointing out to parents on Rollercoaster that if it looked like a duck, walked like a duck, and quacked sometimes.....

    I think the Triad of Impairments is a croc of shit. Our kids can have all the above and still be as autistic as the day is long, because they have a sensory processing disorder that affects everything they see, hear, feel, taste touch, smell and feel with every part of their nervous system.

    Sure that would make anyone quack!

    May the Bob love continue - and hey, I love a cross dresser me!! xx

  11. And Ralph Lauren? Pah - Versace for you my darlin xx

  12. Fabulous Jean....and fabulously written. Well done. Sir Bob is absolutely dashing so he is! xx Jazzy

  13. Jean, I adore your whimsical sense of humor and your perspective on the spectrum. Bob is quite the handsome fella indeed as is my Griffin, they are blessed with good looks and a great imagination. Griffin is half Samoan and the older he gets the more he looks like his father which means the girls will be after him long before he knows they exist!

    Thanks for a great chuckle, I truly enjoy getting to know you and the family!

    Lora and Griffin :)