Numbers have always been Wilson’s jam. To this day, he still counts down to calm down and points out a 7-11 convenience store when we drive by. I think when he first “had” about 15 words, the numbers 1-10 made up the majority. In the world of developmental delays, you must start tracking these things early on to report back to doctors and specialists.
I also added things like “uh oh” to that list. Reaching, I know.
There is a moment in these videos where he looks at me, right before saying “blast off!” at the end of his countdown and I must admit, I clung to that moment for a long time as a sign that Wilson did not have autism.
I knew very little about autism at the time, and lack of joint attention and shared joy was one of the red flags on our radar. You can see in many of the videos, he doesn’t respond to my verbal praise or reinforcement.
This was the kind of acknowledgement and engagement I was getting from him around that time. Tiny glimpses here and there.
He was diagnosed with autism the next year. It didn’t long for me to learn that autism is not a list of traits or characteristics to be checked off. And it most definitely isn’t the stereotypical version of autism that many people view it as.
Let’s debunk a few more of these autism stereotypes while we are at it:
- “Verbal communication equates with cognition.” Nope, not even close. In many cases, there is confusion among the brain pathways involved in planning the sequence of movements needed to produce speech. The brain knows what it wants to say, but it cannot plan the movements needed for speech and sound.
- “When you can’t see signs of autism, the person must be “higher functioning” or have an “easier” form of autism.” Like most people in this world, there is always so much more going on than meets the eye. There is no telling how hard an autistic person is working to hide certain traits perceived as socially unacceptable, or how hard they are working to process the environment around them.
- “If they don’t make eye contact, they aren’t listening.” Wrong. Sometimes that’s HOW they can listen best. Eye contact can be distracting and uncomfortable.
- “If someone is nonverbal, they likely don’t understand what you’re saying.” Nope, see #1 above and ALWAYS presume competence.
- “Autistic people aren’t social, they just want to play alone/be alone.” Not necessarily, although everyone is different. In my son’s case, he needed to learn HOW to initiate play and still PRACTICES how to play with others (turn taking, etc.) Some things like this don’t always come naturally to him, but he LOVES interacting with other kids.
Bottom line, autistic children and adults might have a different way of processing the world around them, but they think and feel deeply just like anyone else.
click on images/links below for some cute flashbacks and a sweet little voice. ❤️