Are there really more kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders today?

I do not know anyone with a severely austic child, and I don’t know anyone personally who has a child that seemed 100% neurotypical until 2 years old and then lost language skills, so maybe those sorts of ASD cases are on the rise.

But I have found that among the “almost normal” kids on the Autism Spectrum there seems to be at least one parent that also exhibits Asperger’s symptoms, and often there is a grandparent. 

In my child’s case there is a parent (me), a grandparent, two great-grandparents, at least one great-great-grandparent, an uncle, a great uncle, several great-great aunts, and some cousins both in his generation, as well as several generations older.

So is it on the rise, or is the speed of our society such that it is just more obvious that people have a hard time with transitions?

Also, when I was a child, school was very orderly and eveyone did their own work. Now that the focus is on group work, people who have a hard time working in groups are going to be more obvious.

I think it is excellent that students are required to learn in groups, as that is required to survive as an adult. It just makes kids with ASD more obvious, which is good so that they can get the help that their older relatives didn’t.

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Socially Isolated

Because our brains don’t process the world in the same way as most everyone else, we don’t understand other peoples’ points of view, and they don’t understand ours. This leads to frustration on both sides. No one wants to be in a continually frustrating, draining social setting, so each party draws away from the other.

Because we don’t handle transitions and unfamiliar situations well, we have  a hard time getting along with anyone, because no person is going to be completely predictable, consistent, dependable, understandable. The panic or frustration we feel when we encounter new situations makes it difficult to relate to others. This is why we usually talk about ourselves. Not because we don’t want to know about you, but because, we don’t know what to ask, or are afraid we won’t know how to properly respond when you say something we didn’t expect.

The only thing that has helped me get through social situations is a lot of prayer – Go God!

“We all did really well, because we are all friends.”

The title of this blog comes from a statement made by my neurotypical daughter after her dance recital dress rehearsal several weeks ago.

She and her class of 11 6-7-year-olds had just finished rehearsing and she wanted to know how I thought they had done. I have learned how to be bit neurotypical with her, i.e., I have learned to not tell everything I am thinking, but to put a positive spin on most things, unless hearing the absolute truth is necessary for her long-term success in life.

So I replied, truthfully, that I thought it was the best they had ever done, and that, almost truthfully, I noticed that she only seemed to be confused at one section towards the end of the dance (really, there were a few other places – but she seemed to get back on track faster in those places, so I decided to just keep my mouth shut).

I wanted to go into a typically-Aspergian detailed description of every good and bad point of the routine, but knew that would not be helpful at this late hour, so I just said that I thought everyone seemed to do really well, and something about only a few getting lost at a few places, just like her (I just can’t blatantly lie all of the time, and wanted to make her feel like she had done just as well as everyone else – which she pretty much had), so it was really good.

Her response to my assessment was the title statement. From what I have learned from observation and anecdote, I guess that is a very typical attitude among neurotypical girls of that age (maybe of all age? – anyone with insight into this can let me know…).

For me, that is the strangest statement in the world. How does being friends have anything to with how well you all did? I mean, if they had gotten together and drilled each other on the routine, OK, then I could understand. But they didn’t. They worked hard in class for 45 minutes once a week, and very seldom did I see them help each other out. The helping was pretty much left to the teachers.

Also, my daughter never even saw the other girls outside of dance class. So to say that they were all friends seemed a stretch. Aquaintances and classmates? Yes. But friends? 

I found her assessment incomprehensible, but very touching.

I think I should try to find ways to try to think a bit like that. It would  make life sweeter, I think. Though I don’t think it will be easy for me to do: )

Back to the beginning: Being fearful of new things

In my first blog, titled, “Where to Begin,” there is a list that I said I would give insights into later. This is a bit later than I had intended, but here it goes.

Number 1 on that list was: Fearful of new things.

Because we are not good at processing new information quickly, a new thing can be very intimidating to us. We know that we may figure out how to deal with this new situation before we become overwhelmed. And once overwhelmed, all useful brain and motor function ceases, as it does with any individual. 

Another key part of being scared of new things, is that we know that we are not good at motor planning. Motor planning is the ability to get youir body to do what you want it to do. We know that if this new thing starts to do something that makes us uncomfortable, we probably are not going to be able to get our bodies to do what we want fast enough to keep us from being overwhelmed.

An example of this would be my son’s fear of learning how to pour his own cereal. He knew that there was a large risk of cereal spilling, and he knew that if that started to happen, he probably wouldn’t be able to take the necessary actions to stop the mess until it had become big and overwhelming.

Eventually, because he was tired out being outdone by his little sister, he decided that he would try and pour the cereal. Sure enough, as the bowl started to overflow, all he could do was watch the cereal pour all over the table and cry for help. 

He wasn’t able to decide quickly enough what to do about the spilling cereal. And even as he realized that he should stop pouring the cereal, he wasn’t sure how to make his body do that, and couldn’t tell his body to move because he felt so overwhelmed by the mess.

An example in my life as an adult will have to follow, as it is time to get the kids up for school.

Why a Special Interest

While vacuuming, I was thinking about some presentation notes I read from the Minnesota Conference on Autism. The notes were talking about how people with Asperger’s Syndrome and autism often have a special interest. The notes made the observation that it is not yet known why people with Asperger’s Syndrome have a special interest.

It is strange to me that people would wonder why we Aspies have a special interest. We are not good at focusing on more than one thing at a time. We are not good at generalizing. We are not good at understanding that others don’t think like we do. So to us our special interest is not special at all. It is simply our life. We don’t understand why others don’t have a special interest.

OK, I now know why others don’t have as strong of special interests. And I have been forced to broaden my scope of subjects of interest, and have enjoyed the social opportunities having more to talk about has afforded me.

But when I am looking to unwind – to the special interest I go: )