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Love and other mysterious emotions

When Matt was first diagnosed some 23 years ago the professionals of the day considered autistic children incapable of showing true emotions.  I look back now and smile, but back it made me furious.  There really wasn't anyone who knew anything concrete about autism then, even though some professed to know much.  The one behavior that each would spout but was totally wrong was that autistic individuals were basically unable to display real emotion.  My experiences with my autistic son Matt, has made it indisputeable - there is plenty of emotion; sadness, joy, fear, love,  -  it's just not as obvious sometimes.  Autism does not a mindless robot make. Over the years I have seen plenty of emotions.  Empathy and love are the 2 emotions that are sometimes difficult to see - but they're there.

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Starting anew in a new year

Soon it will be 2011 and a new round of resolutions are in order.  I am optimistic for this new year - first time in a long time.  Tom and Matt will once again be under the same roof as I.  Just think of it - both parents working in the same time zone! Of course, I have a list of personal goals I have set for myself - one of them is to focus heavily on completing my book, and some goals I have set for Matt. I keep reminding myself I must consider Matt’s future in deciding what is next in my list of life lessons I need to teach him.

 Ah yes, the elusive future. Does anyone actually ever figure out their future? Of course, I want all the usual things for my autistic son – more educational experience, spend more time just hangin with him, and teach him as many new things as possible.  But all of these are vague and to be honest, pretty wimpy.  What I want – make that need – is to make some concrete plans. It's time to narrow down just one goal to a very specific achievable goal.  For this new year I want Matt to take a college art course. 

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Christmas is 500 miles away

Christmas is 500 miles away.

 

 It’s Christmas.  Spending this particular holiday alone is torture. This year there is no tree, no lights, no joyous laughter or smell of cookies.  This year my son Matt and my husband Tom are 500 miles away and not due to return until mid-January.  There’s something very wrong about enduring such a special holiday alone.  Yes, we have other children, but we (Tom, Matt and I) don’t seem to register on their radar this year.  It doesn’t matter, it has always been Matt and Tom that bring the Christmas spirit each year and I am use to feeding off their wondrous energy come December.  But I don’t have them near me this year. This is my first Christmas away from Matt and I am acting as if I am in mourning.  He has always given such life to this holiday – it’s not Christmas without him.  I miss him more than I can bear.

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Miracle Beneath the Tears

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Art Transforms a Mind - Received an Honorable Mention in the 79th Annual Writer's Digest Competition

Art Transforms a Mind (Competion Article)

 by Elizabeth Becker

 When my son, Matt,was a little over year old he would hold up a ball and turn it this way and that, looking at it from all angles. I knew that day that Matt would be an artist. What I did not know was that he would be autistic. When the symptoms of autism crept in, it seemed to put Matt’s mind on hold, and in many ways regress. It was several years before I noticed that his eye for perspective and talent toward perceptual – conceptual art was still intact.

Matt began his art as all children do –scribbles with crayon, lines on a page – what I call his “primitive art”. I felt his drawings revealed his mind and I always looked at his art with a deep interest, trying to find the meaning behind each drawing. One of his early drawings - a set 3 V-shaped lines in row after row - was finally deciphered as the large power lines that traversed the mountains near our home. It was that “light-bulb” moment that led me to investigate every drawing thereafter.

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Autism? What's That?

When do you tell your autistic child they are autistic?  When do you explain to them what autism is?  How do you know when the time is right?  These are questions all parents face as they move through the years. The time for one may not be the time for another.  So, what’s the answer? Quite simply, the right time will eventually present itself.

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Different . . .not less

Tom and I watched the film, “Temple Grandin”.  If you have not yet had a chance to see it, then I highly recommend that you do – especially if you know someone autistic. The directors did a wonderful job of capturing the curious behaviors and mannerisms of Temple’s autism. Many of the mannerisms shown in the movie have been observed in my own son, Matt.  As I watched I couldn’t help but think of Matt – both about the similarities and the differences.  Although both Temple and Matt are what professionals would consider high-functioning, they are still very different in almost as many ways as they are the same. 

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It's Hot

Doesn’t a nice dip in the hot tub sound great?  My back is stiff and aching and I find the hot water and strong jets are just what I need when the weather turns cool.  I ask Matt if he wants to get in with Tom and me.  Sometimes the answer is “yes”, but more often than not the answer is “no”.  Matt loves water – always has.  So why would he not want to get in the hot tub?  Very simply, Matt is very sensitive to environmental stimuli.  Included in this category are bright lights, loud sounds, strong odors, certain textures, certain tastes, and drastic temperature changes.  At one point, when he was very young, all of these stimuli played a major role in his everyday life.  Over the years he became more interactive with his environment and slowly some environmental factors became acceptable.  This was an area of learning that Matt decided to tackle in his own time with only gentle encouragement from the sidelines.  The hot tub has been a real challenge.

 

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Could it be Jealousy?

This past week I spoke to a woman who has an autistic son.  Her son goes to Virginia Tech and is majoring in history.  He loves reading and writing papers and is doing very well. Of course he is - after all, college is all about reading and writing papers.  His memory is exceptional and exams are a breeze for him.  He is on the honor roll consistently.  I listened as she told me all these things and found myself excited for her.  Yet underneath my excitement I felt something else too. I felt myself getting anxious – my heart even raced a bit.  I felt a few pangs of sadness. It haunted me to the point where I wanted to put our conversation out of my mind.  Unfortunately, I found it to be quite impossible to forget. Instead, I ended up thinking about her son all weekend and wishing terribly that my son was engaged in college activity. Don’t get me wrong, I was truly happy for her and her son.  But to be honest, I couldn’t help but wish Matt was at Tech, learning, exploring, and making new friends. I hate to admit it, but I think my sadness was intricately tied to another emotion - jealousy.

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Dental Basics

We were on our way to town and Matt had only been up and moving for about an hour.  “Did you brush your teeth?” I asked.  “Um, yes!” he replied as he headed down the hall.  “Did you put on deodorant?” I asked.  “Um . ..” he turned on a dime and headed straight for his bathroom.  Sometimes Matt needs a little reminder when it comes to personal hygiene.  A little reminder is nothing if you could have seen the early years.

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