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How Do Most People Recognize Autism? Short Answer, “They Don’t!”

My son is a “party mooch.” I doubt seriously that this is a thing commonly said about moderately Autistic children, but it’s certainly true for Garrett.

Sometime in the last year (his fifth), we were in a local park. There was an “event” going on there, that was for the children of the staff of some medical facility. This appeared to have ranged from doctors to nurses, to administrative staff. There may have even been a few “outsiders” known to the staff. I’m not sure whether or not all staff of the facility in question were invited, or just a small subgroup of the “general population.” I do know that there were folks of the types described.

Being the kind of person who tends toward privacy, I tend to shy away from such things even if I’m invited to them. Garrett, on the other hand, does not.

After skirting the edges of the little gathering (in a park gazebo), he wormed his way quietly (but with implied invitation) into the group. Of course, daddy had to follow along to make sure:

  1. That he was well and healthy
  2. That he wasn’t snatched by somebody inside or outside of the group.
  3. That he didn’t behave in a way that made him problematic to the gathering.

There were certainly other reasons, but these are sufficient for this article.

As one would expect at such an event, there were games suitable for children of various ages. Garrett availed himself of some of them, and ignored others. This also was rather to be expected.

For the most part, he was sufficiently well-behaved as to not even “arouse suspicion” among those at the event. Neither adults, nor children noticed anything but a lack of communication and a bit of what would probably have been described as “weirdness.”

All of this happened prior to Garrett’s diagnosis. That meant that even mommy and daddy were not certain what diagnosis (if any) would be forthcoming when and if it occurred.

Partway through the party was an event that was something like a “more hygienic bobbing for apples.” Strings were hung from a low hanging eave, and apples were tied to the stems, using them as an “anchor point.”

An older lady (older than me, and as indicated, I am over fifty), was “overseeing” this particular diversion. She asked Garrett multiple times, whether or not he wanted to participate, only to be met with a coy smile (a Garrett specialty).

I can’t recall if he finally tried to participate, or just watched as others did so. If he tried, any attempt would have been a failure. You see, where he finally decided apple sauce was “food,” apples have never been a part of his diet. He likes neither the look, nor the texture of them. It’s all but miraculous that he eats apple sauce, frankly, since as a rule, if it’s wet, it doesn’t qualify as food.

I told the lady at one point that I was reasonably sure he (Garrett) was Autistic. Her response was on I have heard pretty much every time I’ve ever told anybody, “I didn’t spot that at all!” I’ll get back to that being a pretty common response momentarily. What was important about this particular instance, is that the lady in question purported to be some sort of behavioral therapist who specialized in children. As if that alone wasn’t sufficient, as I say, she was older and indicated that she had more than thirty years “in the business.”

The reason this came to mind today, is that Garrett—being his usual selfwas playing in a way that caused him to unconcernedly kick a three-year-old a couple of times whilst on a small swing. The parent of the child made a great deal of noise—though his child was not injured in the least. This is somewhat understandable. I tend to keep Garrett on a pretty “short leash,” particularly when he is around other (and most importantly, younger) children. The closer he is to other children, the closer my “watch” must be. As such, I was at the scene in a veritable flash, telling Garrett, he must not do what he did at all, much less with no concern for the other child.

The fellow made a good deal of noise to the surrounding staff (all of whom are quite familiar with Garrett—we have a membership at the entity in question), they worked to calm the situation, as I worked to ensure no more “events” occurred.

Some time later, the parent in question came up to me, shook my hand, and spoke to me in a conciliatory fashion. I can’t remember all that was said, but essentially, he assured me his child was unaffected by the events in question, and said he was sorry he had “snapped at” me and others earlier on.

It was only then I told him about Garrett, in terms of his Autism. I make it a practice—as I indicated to him—to not make Garrett’s “condition” known.

His response was by far the “typical.” Essentially,  “I would never have known! You seem to be doing such a good job with him.” I informed him that Garrett—like many Autistic people, tend to lack what others view as sympathy and empathy.

The point is though, he, like so many others, had zero idea the little boy in my care was Autistic. Typically, they have no mechanism for such an assessment. They are entirely unable to see anything but a seemingly badly behaved child.

And I have to acknowledge, that I too was “in that boat” until Garrett. You see, none of my other three children were “like” Garrett. It’s possible one or more had mild Autism; to this day, I cannot say. Even Garrett with “moderate” Autism though, is not “spotted” even by health professionals by and large—much less those without such qualifications.

Were it not for “learning deficits,” it is entirely possible he would never have been diagnosed at all. Though I like to think I would have noticed there were issues, I cannot be sure.

  What’s the point? Well, it’s really rather simple. Except for people who have dealt with Autism and to some degree, even for those folks, recognizing Autism in others (unless it is severe) is quite unlikely.

See that “badly behaved child” over there? Well, maybe your assessment that a “good spanking would sort him or her out,” is not so correct as you’d like to believe. To be fair, maybe it is the case, too. That having been said, give both the child and the parents the “benefit of the doubt!”

Okay, at my limit (and actually moderately complete on my thoughts for this article), as such, I’ll call this one good.

As usual, thanks for reading, and have the very best of times!

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I will be the first to acknowledge that people—whether in cohesive groupings or not, and some of them even fundamentally good in nature—have done things that have inflicted various levels of harm on others on the basis of at least questionable, if not outright errant accusations and suppositions.

I’ll certainly agree that, most particularly the further back in time one travels, harm of various individuals was based on nothing more than an unreasonable bias against a given individual by another person or group thereof. And you can be assured that I’m not saying such things don’t happen today, as in the past, just that I think they’re less likely in the modern day than in the past.

Nor am I saying that when such things occur at all, they are somehow less problematic on the basis of number of occurrences. I’m saying only that I think we’ve gotten better at not allowing such things to happen.

That doesn’t mean we can cease to be vigilant—that we need not concern ourselves with such things occurring.

All that said, as with just about every scenario you will ever explore, it should be well noted that there are multiple facets to be looked at and considered when examining such occurrences.

To add to the complexity of this particular issue—as well as a good many other issues—there is more often than not (always?), a tendency for people to allow their emotions rather than facts to “rule the roost.” And sometimes, that can have unfortunate and extreme results. Obviously, the results can be more or less extreme, but doubtless, at times they can be quite serious.

One of the resultant outcomes of (most particularly rapid responses on the basis of) emotional rather than fact-based perspectives, has been referred to as “tit-for-tat” behavior. If you’re unfamiliar, the idea is that a person decides that a “reasonable response” to the actions of another “look like this.”

About this point, you may well be thinking, “That’s just normal social interaction.”

The reality is though, that as one ages, the hope is that he or she is much less likely to immediately, or in an uninformed manner, respond to those things that around him or her occur.

More and more, this appears to be less and less the case. Further, there seems to be a tendency for younger folks to fail to take the advice of those who are a bit more seasoned, and be measured in their responses to things.

Maybe it’s just that I have gotten a little older, and began to see better that such is the case. Maybe I’m correct, and we are “suffering a breakdown” of such ideas.

Whatever the case, to me, it appears that we have a major issue with what I would call knee-jerk tit-for-tat behavior. It seems to me that more people are willing to react to what they believe is happening as opposed to what they would actually find is happening if they were to step back and evaluate the situation dispassionately.

That’s not to say things are never as the first appear, just that I think probably more often than not, our biases (yes, we all have them) and leanings are likely to color our perspectives sufficiently to keep us from seeing what’s actually occurring.

Keep in mind too, that this means if we don’t recognize and often confront our biases and leanings, we are likely to never see the truth.

That means we must, from time to time, really evaluate what we believe and why we believe it. If we find that things we believe are baseless or of questionable merit, we must abandon them—even if emotion or passion tells us not to do so.

Even doing that, we cannot be assured of a fair assessment of a situation or circumstance, without taking the time to gather the data necessary to come to a correct and reasonable conclusion.

I will say that, the older one gets, the more likely it appears, that one’s instincts regarding a particular thing will be correct. In a sense though, that means we must be even more careful to evaluate and assess things related to various events an occurrences.

The fact is, even if it appears my instinctive assessment of something is spot on, except in rare circumstances, no more or less harm will occur if I take the time to evaluate surrounding facts and information to come to a more complete conclusion.

Of course, standing in traffic will likely get one killed! Put another way, there are some things upon which one probably ought to act with swiftness.

Barring that type of circumstance or situation though, one probably should consider withholding judgement until one has had enough time to review details after “calming down.”

Without passing judgement, it should—though I’ll say it in any case—not even need to be said that action as a result of all but things requiring more or less immediate response, should also remain “undone.”

I know there is a tendency in this current, fast-paced world, to expect things to be done with quickness and accuracy. I submit that in many instances, this is not how things will “work out.”

Put simply, things done in haste will often result in error and things done correctly, will often be a great deal more slowly accomplished.

I’m well aware that this runs contrary to a good many current “mantras.” Nonetheless, I find more and more, that it is true. At best people acting in haste will be “generally correct” at worst, they will do things that result in outright catastrophe.

The more serious the thing considered, by the way, the greater the chance of a seriously bad outcome if considered and acted upon in haste.

I know that a very few will take the time to even read my “admonishment,” and that even fewer will take it to heart. One ought not allow the fact that folks pay one mind, to keep one from doing what is good and correct, though.

Okay, so finally, if you are in the habit of reacting quickly and/or without anything like definitively complete data, I adjure you to cease! Stop! Think! Consider! Collect needed information, only then judge—much less act.

Well, I think I said that closer to my expected “word-count” than I thought I would’ve.

As usual, thanks for reading, and may your time be good and pleasant.

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Politics And Life

I’m not sure if, at the age of 54, I can officially consider myself “old.” I’m not even sure there is any kind of “official” definition. I know that—though the age has “moved up” in my lifetime many places—I am eligible at some venues, for the “senior discount.” Maybe that’s old, maybe not, I’ll leave it to the reader to reach his or her own conclusion.

What I believe I can say, is that half a century plus of living has allowed me to see a good many things about humanity.

The result of this fact, is that I have become more and more prone to eschew considering strongly—much less speaking about—a variety of subjects. Don’t misunderstand me, I have my own (typically rather entrenched) opinions on the subjects in question.

Politics would be very much among these, were it not for the potentially devastating effects of political activities on the very simplest of human endeavors. I think it obvious that, if the least such activities are potentially so ill affected, the more significant and important ones are so to an even greater extent.

The result is, though I would like to entirely ignore things political in nature, I find myself entirely unable to do so.

That’s not to say that my attitude and actions regarding politics has changed substantially. It just means that I must take the time to address things with which I would certainly prefer not to deal.

The single most significant cause for my need to speak out is that laws are enacted, executed and adjudged as a result of the political process. These laws—when allowed to accomplish their intent unquestioned—often result in anything from mildly unfortunate to massively disastrous outcomes.

That’s not to say there is no such thing as a benign or even potentially beneficial law. I will say though, that this appears to me to be far from the “norm.” And what makes this more the case than the original intent of the ordinances in question, is the “law of unintended consequences.” Put another way, laws, rules, ordinances and regulations are often written with very particular ends in mind, that does not mean, the resultant “use” for them is what was by any means intended.

Every moment, somebody finds him or her self in the back of a squad car, in a courtroom, or a jail cell as a result of the misapplication of some rule somewhere. This happens in every society, it is not exclusive to one or another as far as I’m able to tell.

This means that each and every person in a given society, can expect to be affected by the outcomes of the various political processes that occur around that person, regardless his or her involvement in the aforementioned processes.

Much of the time, if one has standards of his or her own, and most particularly if those standards are relatively high, one can all but ignore the results of the political process—or at least, this has been the case in times past.

I say that because more recently, at least here in the United States, there has been a tendency towards doing things in ways which previously, would have been considered entirely unacceptable.

One example of this relates to a legal concept commonly known as the “presumption of innocence.”

In this country, it has been common that, if a person is accused of a given crime, he or she was presumed innocent. The onus—the burden of proof—was on the accuser, not the accused. More and more, it seems as though this concept is being abandoned. What makes the abandonment more insidious, is the fact that it appears to be dropped inconsistently.

This appears to particularly be true in those who affect the political process, but it happens to others as well. For the others, it can be one of a variety of things—often largely unknowable—that the presumption of innocence is “dropped.”

In the arena of politics, it tends to be a great deal more predictable. Most of the time, if a person is “in the same party” as those who might be weighing accusations, he or she is more likely to be presumed innocent (if not “be given a pass” and have the entire allegation ignored).

This gets to the patent ignorance of another precept found in U.S. Jurisprudence, that being the concept of “equal protection under the law.” When one person is presumed innocent and another guilty based on things immaterial to the accusation (like politics), it begins to appear that the pulse of the concept of equal protection is weak to the point of threadiness.

I am a person who believes himself ill equipped to judge the guilt or innocence of others, as such, I pretty much always “err on the side of caution” come to accusations. In my view, we’re all guilty (of something at the least). As such, I too bear the burden of guilt.

My desire is that others treat me with the same grace I would like to think I apply to others. As such, when people fail to apply the standard of innocence until guilt is proven, I see a major problem in their actions.

It doesn’t help that the original concept was put in place because it’s much harder to prove innocence than it is to prove guilt.

Regardless its cause, inequity in judgement is a bad thing. Where it exists, if the political process is to be trusted, such errors in the process must be fixed inasmuch as it is possible so to do.

In my humble opinion, the place to start fixing such issues, is in starting with the presumption of innocence—no matter how heinous or evil the supposed or alleged crime being reviewed.

A large part of this can be “dealt with” by each person refusing to accept the “judicial results of the court of public opinion.”

The next step, it seems to me, is for us to stop assuming that, looking from the outside, we have a complete or correct understanding of what has happened.

Okay, here I am at my “word limit.” As such, I should leave things at this point, where you now find them. Allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you for reading.

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Autism – What Did You Know and When Did You Know It?

I’m not a person who likes to draw conclusions on obviously incomplete data.

For example, I like to make sure people are as aware of things pertinent to any post I write as possible. That’s why I’m prefixing this post with the statement that I have an Autistic soon-to-be-six-year-old at home. I know that people who have taken the time to read my blog are probably already well aware of this fact.

They’re also probably pretty well aware that I would not change my son—in terms of somehow trying to “cure” his Autism—for the world and all that in it is. He is a wonderful, unique, quirky, weird (and I use this word advisedly, for, like his daddy he is “weird” and in generally pretty awesome ways) little mess, and I couldn’t love him more!

That being said,  I know there are a good many people out there dealing with “problem children” (or at least, that’s how they likely seem to many of them) and wondering what on earth is happening. To be clear, I’m talking about the parents of diagnosed and undiagnosed Autistic children.

On the one hand, I want to quite plainly say, “I feel your pain.” On the other—except in some rather rare cases—I want to all but holler, “Get over yourselves.” This keeps me “in balance,” since I generally won’t do the former, I don’t tend to do the latter either.

But the thing that I have thought about a great deal, has been summed up in that much politicized but intriguing question, “What did you know, and when did you know it?” What makes me write this article, is my remembrance of the time “before” I had an Autistic child, but after my son was born. Some people will “get” this, many will not, so let me explain.

Autism is seen by most, as a thing having a definite onset. Even I have been prone to say things like, “It was about eighteen months when we began to see regressive behavior.” And that was the “signal” that Garrett was Autistic.

The truth is though, the further along I go, the less convinced I am that Autism is marked by some sort of “onset.” The more I conclude that there were signs that Garrett was Autistic virtually from birth.

I’ll get into this further in a second, but first, allow me to explain how very important this apparent truth is. You see, where it’s possible for people to be born with diseases, it’s not the common experience. The reality is, most children born with some deformity or difference, are consider to be who they are by and large, not somebody who was somehow “done wrong” in some manner.

This is how I see Garrett. I see him as a unique, different, little boy. No, he’s not “normal” (like that’s inherently a good thing), and I’m entirely fine with that. In fact, I think it’s probably to his advantage, at least in certain regards.

Back to the “road signs!” One of my earliest memories of Garrett, was being in a standard hospital “post delivery” room, holding my little boy in my arms and wondering when I was going to see his little eyes. Initially, I was unsure that was ever going to happen, then, for some reason, somebody turned off the overhead fluorescent lighting and almost immediately, his eyes opened. Okay, so we have apparent light sensitivity (those who deal with Autism are very well aware that many Autistic folks have “sensory issues.”).

This alone, was far from enough to convince me that there was something more to deal with going on. Even so, it was a sign.

Garrett came home, but mommy was not feeling well, and so, was readmitted for a time to the hospital. He seemed to be a pretty normal baby. He wanted fed every couple of hours, and didn’t seem to need to be changed more or less than any other baby with which I have dealt. He seemed to sleep well and, as babies do, he seemed to sleep quite a bit—again not more than normal. Momma came home shortly, and all seemed “right with the world.”

As we went along, Garrett exhibited a couple more “symptoms.” First, he got very fussy, for no apparent reason at times and it took a lot of time and repetitive motion to “calm him down.”

Second, he displayed a marked sensitivity to many of the common baby formulae—to the degree that he would basically projectile vomit if he got too much, drank it too fast, or sometimes, for no apparent reason.

Now any of these things alone (and frankly, all of them together) don’t sound like much, and most parents (particularly if experienced, or with experienced family or friends around them), would have thought little to nothing of any of it. But that doesn’t mean they were not early signs of Autism.

One of the bloggers I have taken some time to read (the primary—if not only—writer on, points out that one of the issues for people with Asperger’s Syndrome or what is referred to as “mild Autism,” whether seen as Asperger’s or not, is that folks “having” them “seem normal enough.” This makes it so people assume “nothing is wrong with them.” And if that was truly what was meant by what was said, that would be the end of it, but it’s not. What they actually mean is, “the person has no issues with which to deal not found in any normal person.” The obvious problem with this statement is that if you look at the average cancer patient, it’s likely you’ll see nothing extraordinary. That doesn’t mean nothing is “there,” it just means you cannot see it.

Though Autism is not (at least in my opinion) a disease, it is similar to some diseases in this regard. You can look at an Autistic person, and see nothing “out of the ordinary.” And that’s not just true for people with “mild” Autism (or Asperger’s). My son has “moderate” Autism, but mostly, people looking at him would be entirely unaware, but for what appears to be “simple bad behavior.”

It’s my contention that the “early symptoms of” Autism can be just as easily missed for an appearance of normalcy. This is obviously less likely the more “severe” the Autism, but for most, it seems a pretty likely thing.

Final thought? Though it appeared that the first manifestations of Autism in my son, came at about eighteen months, looking back, I’m not so sure. 

Okay, I need to wrap this up now. Hope your time is good and as usual, thanks for reading!

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What’s Important?

Anybody who knows me personally (and some who don’t) are aware that I have an Autistic son. As a result, I tend to pay attention when folks (especially adults) who have Autism or deal with Autistic folks, speak about their experience and give advice on things you can do to help in the process of giving Autistic children (and soon enough, young adults) tools to help them to cope and deal with the “non-Autistic” world around and about them.

In doing this, I have found a moderately young adult blogger who has a website called “Autistic Not Weird” who has given me insight into what it is like growing up with Asperger’s Syndrome (which many account “mild Autism”). My son is, for want of a better term, considered to be “moderately Autistic.” This means he has things like speech delays and cognitive “issues” above and beyond those who would be considered mildly Autistic.

Nonetheless, though I hardly agree with everything the (primary?) writer of says—for example, a person can be (and usually is) Autistic and weird, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that— I find his insight to be very much worth considering. To be clear on my former interjection, weird is not in itself bad, just different, a thing I find myself personally to be in many regards.

In any case, reading the blog in question, I found a piece of advice which is timely for all young people, but on consideration, I began to realize more needed to be said.

Essentially, Mr Bonnello—the fellow who writes the blog in question—related that he had a much harder time dealing with life in general until he learned to “play to his strengths.”

For young people, this is not at all a bad thing to do. As you get a bit older though, you realize there are some other, pretty significant truths.

Perhaps the first of these is, what I am good at is not necessarily what I will need in my “tool-chest” if I am to accomplish those things in life that are ultimately really important to me. That means, where it’s entirely fine to “play to one’s strengths” (in fact, I submit that—to some degree, and certainly early on in life—it is all but essential), it becomes necessary to learn new, and perfect existing skills that would not be considered one’s strengths.

Now to be fair, looking at Mr Bonnello’s blog, it is patently obvious that he understands this well, and in some senses, he even says as much. But this realization is every bit as important as the realization that you should gravitate towards those things at which you excel.

The next realization is one I have had presented to me by a variety of sources and in a number of different ways. Essentially, it is, “success is almost always preceded by failure.” That is to say, if you want to be able to do something you haven’t the ability presently to do, you should accept and expect you will likely fail at it (and possible quite a lot) before you succeed. In fact, you may never succeed, but as the old saw goes, you won’t ever succeed if you don’t try.

One additional point, virtually no two things will take them same amount of effort to master. Further, you may need to master one thing to a lesser degree than another (making the “potential gap to mastery” even greater).

An important “takeaway” from the realization that success often follows failure is the realization that failure is not nearly always a bad thing. Another good lesson, is that the more successful somebody is, the more likely that person has been anything from a mild to an abysmal  failure on an ongoing basis (at least for a time). Put simply, I would say to (particularly young) people, “If you want to succeed, particularly at things at which you haven’t been successful in past, you had better at least be prepared to fail first.”

The funny thing about life is, just when you think you’re beginning to “get things down,” you come to realizations that, if properly considered, entirely realign your thinking. Sometimes it takes a few knocks on the head, or even a persistent pounding, for me to “get” the lesson (forget fully internalizing and implementing the results).

One example of this is a lesson I have been dealing with recently. The beginning of this lesson is, “You must have a solid, viable definition of success before you can decide what is needed to be successful.” This sounds obvious on the face of it. What I realized though, is that I do not have a sufficiently strong definition for success.

I coined an axiom for life (which I’m more than sure others have stated in other ways far before I ever considered or came up with it) that I think one of the more important I have ever come up with or even considered coming from others. It is, “It’s not about what I am able to do, it’s about what I ought to do.” Put simply, you can do a large number of things, and that’s lovely, fine and good. That being said, the real question is not what you can do, it’s what you should do.

In order to decide what one should do, it is first necessary to know a couple (maybe more than a couple, but we’ll start with these two) of things. The first is, “What is morally, ethically proper?” The second is, “What on Earth am I trying to accomplish?” This brings me full circle, to one’s definition of “success.”

To add to the complication of this question, I’m pretty certain that success cannot be defined the same way for two different people. As such, it is necessary for each of us to ponder, then eliminate and include in our “life plan” those things that will lead to the definition of success at which we arrive.

Obviously, it is necessary to refine that definition as time goes on. This is true for a variety of reasons that I won’t get into here due to time constraints (mine and yours).

Final words:

  1. Play to your strengths is a good starting point
  2. Not all things we want to do or be in life allow us to play to our strengths
  3. Growth and acquisition of the skills needed to accomplish what we wish to accomplish generally require that we deal with and learn things at which we are not talented or able.
  4. It’s hard to succeed if you haven’t a good definition of success.

Okay, maybe I should revise my self imposed word limit up to eleven hundred, since that’s roughly what I seem to get to when I write. That having been said, allow me to wish you the best of times, and thank you profusely for having read this far.