Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April is Autism Awareness Month

As I have mentioned, my eldest son, Hammer, has Asperger's Syndrome, which is an Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Hammer hates the words 'syndrome' and 'disorder' because he strongly feels that although he is different, it isn't something 'bad' or something that has to be 'cured'.

Last year, Hammer did a talk for his Boy Scout Troop.  I am reprinting it here for you.

I will also be printing some other articles, and writing some more essays with regard to Autism this month.

Here is the reprint of Hammer's Talk for Autism Awareness Month

(sorry, double spaced)

April is Autism Awareness Month.  Mr. Trapp has asked me to speak tonight because I have a form of high functioning autism called Asperger’s Syndrome.


There are many different degrees of autism.  Think of the spectrum of colors.  At the far left you have yellow, and that would be like Asperger’s and other high functioning forms, and all the way on the right you have the deepest darkest purples, and that would be like Kanner’s Autism, so severe that you cannot speak, communicate or be touched.


Autistics have their own way of thinking.  They are often misjudged by those of you who are neuro-typical, we don’t say ‘normal’ because everyone has their own ‘normal’.  Neuro-typical is how all of you without autism think.


Autistics think differently which does not mean it is inferior. And, thinking differently is not the same as thinking different things.  It means that our brains are wired to process and react to information and stimulation around us in a very unique way.  The best thing that you can do is remember that anyone with autism is not being different to be ‘difficult’, it is just how we are.


Autistics and Aspies, like me, get overloaded by things that other people hardly notice, and each of us has our own set of sensitivities.  In order to cope with overload we have to allow for ‘down time’ and time to ‘decompress’.


For example, I have some sensitivities.  Sometimes noise can really be painful and difficult for me to handle.  I often will use soft ear plugs that dull the noise and help me cope. 

I also have a problem with bright lights.  Sometimes I have problems with tactile things too.  I can be bumped gently and have it feel like I was tackled.  Other times, I can bang a part of me and not even notice. 


My pain scale is all messed up, too.  I have a hard time recognizing internal body pain, like stomach aches, and ear infections, until they are super bad.  I broke my nose once, and when the doctor snapped the bone back into place with a metal rod, I never stopped talking to him about Star Wars.  He was amazed because most grown up people, men and women scream, and some even pass out! 


I also have something called dysgraphia which makes it painful to hold pens and pencils for a long time.  I do a lot of my school work orally because of that.  I also like computers better, buteven that can be stressful after a while.

I am also particular about my foods.  I don’t like the different things on my plates to touch.  I am pretty lucky though, some kids and adult Autistics only eat white foods, like Larry on the show Numbers, or only eat 2 or 3 things ever for their whole lives!


One of the most difficult situations for Aspies and Autistics are social occasions.   Groucho Marx once said, “I’ve had a wonderful time, but this wasn’t it.”  This illustrates how many of us feel.  I love being with people, but it can be really hard when they don’t get me.  I am pretty sensitive and can easily have my feelings hurt.  Once people understand where I am coming from, then we usually get along fine!  Chit chat can be tough, but if you come to me and ask me about things I like, we can really have a great conversation! 


Autistics and Aspies often have tics or do repetitive things called, ‘stimming’.  It isn’t meant to be annoying to everyone around us, but sometimes it may seem that way.  Some kids and adults may rock, flap, tap, sway, pace, hum, make weird sounds, stare at walls, etc.  These behaviors are calming for us as we are being bombarded by all the things that you neuro-typical people never even notice.


You may have noticed my tics.  Sometimes I will make a strange noise, or rub my face.  No big deal.  Just ignore it! 


Many Aspies, like myself, and other high functioning Autistics are very smart, but not all of us.  Usually, our smarts or genius is in one or two specific areas, and we struggle with others.  However, all of us here on the Autistic Spectrum are exploring alternate realities with our different thinking and brain functions. 

This can lead to great creativity and inventiveness.  Many studies now believe that Albert Einstein had Asperger’s Syndrome.  He certainly did look at the world of physics in a different way in his time, no one can debate that fact.


Other famous people who have admitted to being on the Autistic Spectrum, or who are now thought to have been after researching their lives using the definitions of Autism, are Bill Gates, Marie Curie, Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Gregor Mendel, Orson Welles, Mozart, Carl Sagun, and there are more. 


There are a lot of great books out there to read about Asperger’s and Autism.  My mom has a bunch and she is always willing to loan them out.  Some are made especially for kids, and some for adults.  Just ask me about them.


Well, I hope this was interesting for all of you.  I will take any questions you might want to ask me now.  First though, I am going to ask my brother, Fuzzy, to come up and help me.  You see, I will answer you from my point of view, but Fuzzy may have more to add, since he is my neuro-typical brother living with me and Asperger's each day.

That was the speech for last year.  We will be writing a new one together for this year.  I will share it, of course.

be well,


libragem007 said...

Oh..Dawn, this is admiring and so wonderfully written! I've learned from reading this.
Thank you for sharing.
Gem :-)

momiscool2 said...

Wow Dawn,

What a wonderful talk that was.

I would have been bawling my eyes out if I was there lol.
I was crying reading it - you must be so damn proud!!!!

It's amazing how far they have come with autism awareness since our kids were diagnosed huh?

Your son sounds like such a sweet wonderful young man!  



martygord said...

Hi Dawn,
This was interesting and also uplifting because Hammer is obviously helping people understand what Asperger's is and we could all use a little more understanding sometimes.  I hope the kids who heard Hammer's speech walked away with a better understanding of what separates Hammer from the pack and also of why it's OK to be separated from the pack!

sdoscher458 said...

Oh Dawn I remember reading this last year and loving how proud you are of him. This was a wonderful way to tell others about this condition, explained in simple terms that kids could get. Give Hammer a hug for me...love, Sandi

tenyearnap said...

Great speech. Looking forward to this year's. --Cin

krmprm said...

What a special writing!  He did a wonderful job at describing Autism and Asperger's, from my point of view.  I have had the privilege of working with children with varying degrees of both.  It is fascinating to study but even more so to experience.  Each child is unique and precious.  I treasure my memories .
We must keep on promoting understanding,  for their sake and ours.  Bless U.  Pat

lv2trnscrb said...

Hammer did great with that speech!!


astoriasand said...

Hello Dawn,just trying a few comments this early morning.Thankyou for your kind well wishes whilst I have been abscent.I have to make it short as I have so many to catch up on.Until I get into some sort of routine my comments may not be daily,but know I am thinking of you and your  family. You are in my prayers always.Take Care and Godbless Kath astoriasand http://journals.aol.co.uk/astoriasand/MYSIMPLERHYMES

eml625 said...

That was an awesome speech. I hope you don't mind, but I sent a copy of it on to my friend whose son was recentley diagnosed with Autism. I'm not sure on what level, I didnt realize there were any untill  I re-read Hammer's speech.
big hugs, and lots of love

glensfork4 said...

That was an AWESOME speech.....thank you for what you will be sharing with us, to make us more knowledgable....

Blessings to you.


ukgal36 said...

No one could have said it better!!
Well done hammer!

sangrialel said...

What an awesome job he did on that speech!!  Linda

buggieboo1 said...

he did an awesome job!

Do you read this journal... http://journals.aol.com/onehenn3chicks/WobblyWorld/
?? Her son Sam has autism.
I also lead her to you J!  NOT sure if you know each other already though?


wwfbison said...

This is wonderful and I can tell you I learned ALOT from reading this.  Hammer did a fantastic job with this - applause applause.

chat2missie said...

Hammer is wise beyond his years!  

sugarsweet056 said...

I have tags I'm posting today, take a look at my Tag Journal later.

wildautumn1 said...

I can across Hammer's speech a couple of days ago.  I had printed it out and saved it with all my other Asperger's notes.  My son is struggling with sound sensitivities right now & Hammer's speech gave me comfort that other kids struggle with the same thing.  I was truly blessed when God sent my son down to me.  There are times when it breaks my heart seeing that he is a little different than other kids.  The funny thing is that once he educates people about Asperger's, they seem to accept him even quicker.  He passes on a gift to everyone who meets him...a different way of seeing things, experiencing things. I don't know how to explain it. He has a way of touching your heart & I wouldn't trade any of it for the world.  

Keep up the good work Hammer.  Your speech has affected so many people...more than you probably will ever know & I am so glad you wrote it.  I can't wait to read this year's speech.

Keeping your family in my prayers always.


justplainbill said...

Dawn, you have every right to be a Proud Mother. Hammer did an excellant job on his speech. I for one learned a lot about a suject that I had not been previously exposed to. Take care, Bill

coelha said...

My supervisor's son also is an Aspie--he is a very intelligent little boy, but right now is being home schooled.  I over hear how she struggles to find the best for her son--the schools he has been enrolled in are not willing to really work with him-they are all private schools that seem to just care about the tuition and not really "helping" or try to understand Aspergers.  My heart aches for her sometimes.  Right now home school is working for him--I think it's the best personally.  I remember you posting this earlier--Hammer is a blessing to you and to all who know him; but you know that already.  Hugs - Julie

gazker said...

Bloody Hell, that was so brilliant. I am proud, just knowing you're proud!
Gaz xxx

helmswondermom said...

Please tell Hammer that he (and you) did an excellent job with that speech.  I wish I could have heard him give it in person.  I would like to flag this entry in my own journal.
I'm slowly making my rounds of J-land.  I'll try to get caught up with the rest of your entries later.  Take care, and I hope you're having a great week.

jmoqueen said...

That is brilliant and I have to say I learnt a lot from reading that.  Please give Hammer a hug from me :o)



ekgillen said...

Hammer is such an amazing kid!  What a great explanation for kids (AND adults!).
You must be a proud momma!!!

bgilmore725 said...

Your Hammer explains it very well. He gives his perspective and makes it easy for those of us who don't live in his world understand clearly what it is like. Some of the students with autism I know do not look any different than the others... they even don't act any different, if they are in the environment that suits their learning style, and have teachers and staff that are able and willing to make the necessary accommodations (if any are needed). Most people cannot tell which students have Asperger's and which don't, particularly the higher functioning Asperger's. The more severe cases are in a separate classroom, of course, but many kids can learn fine in the regular classroom with some minor modifications that would actually benefit all students. I think smaller classroom size would benefit a great majority of students. The number of students should be 20 or less in any given classroom (mho). But, alas, that won't happen in public schools. So we do the best we can when given 27 students in a classroom. Hammer has done well, he seems to have had a good team behind him all his years. Credit goes to you, his parents, his doctors, friends of the family, the community that supported him, and his IEP team (if he had one). Well done, Hammer! and I know you are proud of him! bea

rdautumnsage said...

I thought the first time I read it, he did a wonderful job. My feelings still stand, he helps those of us who don't live with it better understand what it means to those who do. (Hugs) Indigo

cacklinrosie101 said...

I do remember reading this last year and was super impressed.  Hammer is an extremely intelligent kid and explains to us so well what his world is like to live in.  I can't wait to read the one he writes this year.  Love n Hugs Chris

deshelestraci said...

I must have saved this alert and then not cleared it out and missed it.  I love his speech.  I know so many Aspies.  Life is hard for most.  I think the boy I keep has a touch of it.  Picky about food, loud noises, gets overloaded easily.  I'm not even having that conversation with his parents though.  Yikes.