I finally had a chance to watch the movie "Temple Grandin" which was quite an extraoridnary story for anyone who has seen it or is familiar with the topic. Temple is an autistic woman who has gone on to be a very famous thought leader in the animal husbandry industry, her studies and designs have led to a much more humane way to treat livestock. The movie is well acted and the story is really remarkable because it shows a mother's determination to make sure her child achieves as much as their potential can even when there are huge obstacles.
The topic of a child who is different is very personal to me. I have a son with a non-diagnosed spectrum disorder. That term is as confusing as it sounds. When my elder son was about 2 I noticed he flapped his hands a lot, I mean a lot, he sometimes walked on his toes and he seemed to be fascinated with fans. As a mother who watched every milestone and as a psych major these things worried me. He was a loving child but he had some odd reactions to certain noises and textures. He made eye contact and was advanced in his speech but he could also not seem to hold a crayon. I shared my concerns with my husband and with the pediatrician who really said these were not atypical behaviors. Sometimes though you just know...you know that these are not things other kids are doing. One of my most painful moments as a mother came when I had a parent teacher conference at his nursery school when he was 3. The teacher told me that he sometimes stared at the wall and flapped, that he had some personal space issues, and that the other kids asked about his behaviors. My baby, I imagined not what he had but how mean the world could be to anyone who stood out. I sat in my car and cried for an hour after. Yet in some ways it was the best conversation because someone else was validating what I saw and there needed something to be done. He was tested and he scored off the charts in IQ and at the lowest in fine motor skills. He started therapy twice a week and we tried a lot of different things. We tried omega supplements, taking away dairy, holistic and traditional treatments, tramopline to help him release the energy, brushing for sensory integration on his skin and they all worked and they all didn't. The occupational and physical therapy were incredibly effective and he no longer needs them. Today, because of our diligent and early intervention, he is probably one of the most popular kids with his peer group that I know...he has learned where he is safe to show his quirks and how to manage them.
The developmental psychologist who saw him said he was not autistic because he had great social skills but yet he was not typical (normal is no longer used) because he had his quirks which would possibly change to new quirks as he got older. The therapy helped with his fine motor skills and he has learned not to flap in social settings because he has felt the pain of kids being quite cruel about it. He still flaps at home and I let him be. I am sharing this story,with his permission by the way, because if there are parents out there who notice something may not seem "right" about their child they should pursue it until they get whatever they need to help that child be the best they can be. I do not know what causes these things, no one does and non-science myth is being sold as truth. It could be vaccines combined with mercury combined with insecticides all a combo that effects any child with a genetic predisposition to these disorder but who knows...no one. I only know that the therapy helped, that I spent many nights on my kitchen floor crying because I was so scared that I would not know how to help my beautiful, intelligent, funny boy. I know that he is different but not less, just like Temple Grandin says, and in the end I know that anyone who knows him will be better for it. I also ask that if you do not have children with special needs you try to teach your children to be kind to those kids whose twitches, grunts, and general "weirdness" is who they are. I share this with you because without the help of a few friends who accepted and shared their own stories I would have probably not been able to get it together enough to get through what needed to be done. I write this for him, to let him know that different is not easy but that he is loved for it not in spite of it.