The more we read and discover about autism, the more I find myself saying, "But...I was just like that as a kid too. Still am." John often tells our son, "You are just like your Mother!" So, I started to wonder. By today's standards, would *I* fall on the spectrum?
As a kid, I had a hard time making and maintaining friendships. I usually only had one friend at a time. Friends were complicated and I seemed to hurt their feelings. A lot. I found the best kind of friends were girls who were passive and quiet. They were perfectly content to let me call the shots and dictate our play. I was highly imaginative and created elaborate scenarios for us to act out. I did LARP and CosPlay way before I even knew what the heck that was. *grin* But honestly, I would much rather spend my time just quietly reading a book in my room. People were hard. Being outside was hard.
I know my mother struggled to understand me. Brushing my teeth was a nightly battle. I hated it! I hated taking baths or showers. I could go days without even brushing my hair. I just didn't think about hygiene. It wasn't a priority. I HATED having my hair washed. My poor mother actually broke my front teeth on the edge of our steel kitchen sink trying to force my head under the water to rinse out the shampoo.
I wanted to spend time in my own little world. A world that I could control and function as I pleased. Being pushed out into the real world...going to school was hard. I never voluntarily raised my hand. I didn't talk. I kept to myself, head down, and just tried to survive each day. Yes, it made me a favorite target of the school bullies. I was weird! I stood out. Anything different must be crushed...that's how it felt to me. I was being crushed. Daily.
I wasn't a happy child. I coped as best I could and did manage to get good grades and survived all the way to college. I had a best friend who was just as damaged and different as I was. Sadly, she didn't survive.
Now I am the parent. In the beginning I tried to do all the things a regular parent is supposed to do. I brought my boy to playgroups, playgrounds and enrichment classes. He was indifferent, but never outright objected to it. He was ok with pre-school. He was managing in early elementary school. He didn't have very many friends and was "quirky" but he was getting by. I didn't push the hygiene thing. I left the tooth care to his daddy (and it was a major struggle).
He didn't seem as sensitive as I was. Not as emotionally fragile. I had hope that he would coast through school like I did and would ignore the "regular" kids. Not let their teasing and cutting remarks get to him, like I did.
My boy was fine. A little different, like me, but fine. Until he wasn't. He had learned to cope up to a point and then middle school hit. Every class was a change. So many decisions, things to keep track of, different schedules every day, so many teachers with different personalities, wants, and ways of working. He broke. School broke my baby.
A quote from the new DSM-5 makes so much sense - The onset of the symptoms is in the early developmental period (but deficits may not become fully manifest until social communication demands exceed limited capacities, or may be masked by learned strategies in later life).
I barely made it...pray that we can help my little man make it.