April is Autism Awareness Month.
I want to tell you about Daven. Daven is my son and he has autism. He is low on the spectrum (whatever that means) and is high functioning. But most importantly I do love him dearly.
Cheryl and I adopted Daven October 31, 2014. We have had him since he was 2 months old. He is 4 now. Daven goes to school, pre-K and rides the bus daily. He is a beautiful child and no not just because I am biased. That’s him in the picture. He loves railroad crossings as you can see in the photo. He is quite the architect when he gets a hold of his Legos and he can navigate an I-Pad better than I ever dreamed of. He loves trains including Thomas. We often go to the Burlington Northern freight yards together. He likes cars and trucks. Pretty typical for any four-year old.
What isn’t so typical is he is just learning to talk. He started talking normally and then just stopped. He communicated by grunting and pointing, flash cards and his I-Pad. He really just started talking 6 months ago. He has really come along way. There are days he never shuts up and I’m thrilled when he doesn’t.
Daven’s challenge is he has trouble focusing. We all have this sometimes but for Daven it can be quite severe. He has trouble processing all of the stimuli that is around him and gets lost in the background. Sounds. sights, tactile inputs can overwhelm him. We can sort through all of this, put it in the background and focus on something specific. Daven has trouble sorting through everything around him to focus on what is in front of him. Daven may get VERY active and out of control or pull back, shutting out EVERYTHING, becoming OCD on one task. Either way, they are his defense mechanisms to deal with the overwhelming things bombarding his mind. Imagine if you could not ignore every sound, every sight, every input coming into your brain? Think of all the things you shut out to focus on a conversation. Now imagine you can’t. Imagine it all right there demanding you to recognize and process it. The bug walking across your table, the lawnmower next door the light through the window, the TV in the other room and on and on and on. That’s Davens world.
He is doing well in school. He has learned his alphabet, his numbers and some words. Not bad for pre-K. I am confident Daven will continue to learn tools to handle his world and will become successful in what ever he decides to do in life. He will have to work harder than most but I am confident he will succeed. Some children with Autism are not so lucky. They can’t get through the overwhelming attack on their senses and just shut down. They pull back at any human contact and do not communicate. I think they are trying to protect themselves from as much input as they can. They have difficulty surviving in our world and need constant attention.
If you know someone with autism, be understanding. Try to imagine what they are dealing with when doing a simple task as greeting you. Think about the assault going on in their mind and their struggle to break through it. Be patient. Be understanding.
Daven can be a challenge some days. He has definitely changed my life. He demands constant supervision. I am thankful for the many who have come to love him and help us through the day. We have a sitter while we are at work that has grown to be a member of our family, Betty. Daven’s grandfather, Bill. He has been with us from the start with Daven and we would have never made it without him. My parents who have grown to love this little boy as their own. Kristi, who help as a sitter until he went to school. His teachers, who have all gone beyond their role as teacher and loved him. They all fell in love with Daven. It’s easy to do. He is one of the most loving children I have ever known.
Yes, Daven does create challenges and a great deal of work. He demands all your time. BUT he gives back so much more in return. He gives you his love. There is nothing in the world like a Daven hug. Yes I love a child with autism and if you get the chance to meet him, you will too.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to have Daven curl up in my lap.