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April is Autism Awareness Month - Our Journey

Cynthia Burk
OurHometown.ca

April is Autism Awareness Month - Our Journey
April is Autism Awareness Month and as many of you know, our son Tristan is on the spectrum. We have been living and breathing autism for just over two years now and so have Tristan's siblings, our extended family and friends. We were suspicious when Tristan was a year old but he's also epileptic and at that time we were focused on his seizures (100 seizures by the age of two) and we were working with a genetic team exploring various syndromes.
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Stoney Point - April 4, 2014 - April is Autism Awareness Month and as many of you know, our son Tristan is on the spectrum. We have been living and breathing autism for just over two years now and so have Tristan's siblings, our extended family and friends. We were suspicious when Tristan was a year old but he's also epileptic and at that time we were focused on his seizures (100 seizures by the age of two) and we were working with a genetic team exploring various syndromes.

He was diagnosed with ASD at the age of two. He is now four and considered moderate to severe on the spectrum and he's also non verbal. What a ride folks! I can laugh and cry at the same time. You don’t plan on having a child on the spectrum but when you do life changes.

Tristan will start school in September. SCHOOL IN SEPTEMBER, WOW. Awareness/Acceptance is key so please share this article with your friends and family.

What Is Autism? - we've talked about the best "sound bite" to explain it. This is for my “research group ladies” at The Summit Centre For Preschool Children (SummitCentre.org or facebook.com/summitcentreautismwindsor) with Autism and our teacher Dr. Marcia Gragg where we don’t just practice the hands-on aspect of ABA under the tutelage of Summit's amazing therapists but discuss theory.

Here goes: People on the autism spectrum have problems in three areas: social interaction, communication with others and behavioural challenges.

Why should you know about autism and chat with your kids about it? Because, the more talking about accepting and understanding differences is more likely to lead to fewer misunderstandings. When you talk to your kids about accepting the "quirky" kids, you're teaching them acceptance.

Things to Know About Autism and to Share with your Kids

1) You can't tell that someone has autism by looking at them.

2) Everybody's brain works differently. Most kids with autism are good at some things but have to work harder at others.

3) Why are they doing that? You may notice a kid that's spinning around for a long time, flapping their arms, jumping a lot, or rocking. Repetitive actions are called stims and they're doing it because it feels good, or relaxing, or fun, or they are blocking out too much noise around them.

4) Everybody’s ‘weird.’ Stimming can seem weird at first if you're not used to it, but lots of people do things that are "weird." People who don't have autism or ADHD still do all kinds of little things like biting their nails, chewing their pencils, tapping their feet, or humming to themselves. It's okay that we're all different. Hand-flapping is pretty common in kids with autism. But not every kid who flaps his or her hands is autistic, and not every kid with autism flaps. Most of the time, hand-flapping just expresses excitement.

5) Some kids with autism can be "non-verbal" and use alternative forms of communication. They may have a book with pictures (PECS - picture exchange system) or a core board (sheet with pictures), electronic device or sign language.

6) Sometimes, kids with autism have trouble with facial expressions. Sometimes, kids with autism won't know how you're feeling just by looking at your face. Sometimes their facial expressions won't match how they're actually feeling. If you're not sure how someone is feeling, ask them!

7) What are you a fan of? Some people with autism, especially a kind of autism called Asperger Syndrome, are really interested in one particular thing. Really, really interested. Their favourite topic could be anything.

Everyone knows someone who seems "obsessed" with their favourite sports team, for example. You don't have to be autistic to be really into Twilight, Star Wars, or a favourite sports team. Sometimes kids with autism will forget to talk about other things besides their favourite topic. It's okay to say, "can we talk about something else now?"

8) Explain the rules. Kids with autism want to play, too! Sometimes, it's harder for them to ask if they can play with you, and they might not understand which people are playing what, and how to get in the game. Besides asking your friend if he wants to play, it can be helpful if you explain what the rules of the game are.

9) Lots of adults have autism, too. Autism isn't just a kid thing. Lots of grown-ups have autism. Just like kids with autism, some adults with autism need lots of help, and some don't.

10) Individuals with autism are individuals. Just like all the kids in your class are a little different, all people with autism are different.

If you met a kid with red hair who really likes Mickey Mouse, you wouldn't expect every person with red hair to really like Mickey Mouse. It's the same thing with autism. Not every autistic person likes the same stuff, is good at the same things, or has a hard time with the same things. They're individuals just like you're an individual.

Here’s a good article you may want to peruse:
Ten things every child with autism wishes you knew

Cynthia Burk is a General Manager by profession and a first time Momma. She now has no extra money to collect wine and lives vicariously through her friends that actually get sleep. She loves experimenting in the kitchen ... with food. If you have questions or wish to contact Cynthia, you can email her at cburk@ourhometown.ca







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