This is a difficult subject, raising a child on the autism spectrum, especially painful in the wake of Newtown. I was heartbroken by news of the tragedy and dismayed to learn the shooter had Aspergers.
I felt both great empathy and unease watching the PBS Frontline documentary, Raising Adam Lanza, about the relationship between Adam and his mother Nancy. Though experts agree individuals with Aspergers are no more prone to violence than people without the developmental disability, I worry the public will characterize kids on the spectrum as aggressive, a huge setback in hard won autism awareness.
My son is two years younger than Adam Lanza and finding a proper diagnosis was a long, arduous struggle, finally achieved at age 10, about the same age Adam was when he was diagnosed. Initially Junior was erroneously perceived as having a “moderate to severe language disorder.” I still don’t know what the heck that means but he received years of speech therapy, which as it turns out was the last thing he needed, being highly functioning and beyond verbal to the point of verbose. It’s body language he doesn’t get. More details on this and our desperate search for information are at this previous blog post and the only other time I’ve publicly addressed my son’s ASD.
Adam Lanza had initially been diagnosed with SID, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, also known as SPD, Sensory Processing Disorder. It’s not a recognized diagnosis nor included in the DSM-IV-TR Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. As reported by Susan Donaldson James, “Whether SPD is a distinct disorder or a collection of symptoms pointing to other neurological deficits, most often anxiety or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), has been debated by the medical community for more than two decades.” Adam Lanza’s lifetime.
My son’s sensory issues were well documented, considered part of his ASD and certainly challenging. He abhorred particular fabrics, ripping out tags and discarding the socks with “stupid seams.” Refusing to wet his head, hygiene was a serious concern. It took years to overcome his anxiety and get in the shower on a daily basis but he still doesn’t know how to swim and refuses to take lessons.
Unlike a lot of kids on the spectrum, our son’s motor skills were fine. He began walking at 10 months, was a prodigious golfer with a beautiful swing everyone envied. Though shy with strangers, he had no problems with physical contact and was always affectionate with family. He’s less demonstrative as a teenager but if I ask for a hug, he delivers a hug with no qualms.
I may seem anxious to point out how my child with Aspergers is different from Adam Lanza, but because it manifests in a seemingly random but singular fashion, every child on the spectrum is different. Unique. Our choices, options have been dictated by how ASD has affected our child.
I got the impression mother and son were becoming Continue reading