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Thu Apr 30, 2015, 01:24 AM


10 things I want to teach my autistic son before he goes to college


Since he was old enough to walk, my son, Archer, has gone in circles. He was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at age 2; his earliest symptoms included a tendency to spin his toys. When he became ambulatory, Archer started spinning his own body not in a "whirl around until dizzy" way, but in quick jumps and turns, while pacing back and forth and talking to himself in a barely audible singsong.

Archer is 13 now, taller than his mother, and he's still half-walking and half-running in tight ovals, carrying on hushed conversations with himself. At first glance, most anyone would see Archer as a typical teen. In the back seat of my car on the way to school, he sprawls out, iPad or iPhone in hand, looking like a loosely assembled collection of limbs. Then he hops out, straps on his backpack, and does an awkward half-sprint to the junior high courtyard, in the unselfconsciously uncool way common to so many of the autistic and people with Asperger's.

A few weeks ago I picked him up after class, and we went through our regular routine, where he tells me, period by period, what he did that day. One advantage to having a communicative, detail-oriented autistic child is that my wife and I hear a lot more about what happens at school than most parents of teenagers do...

Here's number one: at some point I have to tell him he can't pace and spin and mumble in public or people will think he's crazy....Autistic spectrum disorders present as a collection of tics and social handicaps, which vary from person to person. The severely autistic are often nonverbal, and can spend hours each day rocking back and forth and humming, in their own worlds. But even the "high-functioning" like my son exercise self-stimulating behavior called "stimming." Some flap their hands, or fidget with a favorite object. Others make guttural noises, producing vibrations in their heads that drown out other sounds.


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Reply 10 things I want to teach my autistic son before he goes to college (Original post)
Demeter Apr 2015 OP
KamaAina Apr 2015 #1
hunter May 2015 #2
hunter May 2015 #3

Response to Demeter (Original post)

Thu Apr 30, 2015, 12:30 PM

1. I have been known to pace and mumble in public


I'm no longer that much of a spinner. Never was much of a flapper.

People probably do think I'm crazy, but so what? I'm not even sure they're wrong.

ASAN, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, has a guide to college for us.


ASAN is also a wonderful resource for connecting with other Autistic people. I have about a dozen or so on my FB friends list (out of 442 at last count).

KamaAina, Yale '85, cum laude (which is more than George W. Bush '68 can say, or spell, for that matter )

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Response to Demeter (Original post)

Mon May 4, 2015, 06:00 PM

2. OCD or who knows? I used to have to "undo" all the rotations I'd been forced to do in a day.

Yep, I kept a continuously running mental account of how many rotations I'd made clockwise and counter-clockwise. By the third grade I was incorporating the earth's rotation and orbit about the sun, conceding that our orbit about the galactic center was negligible in a human lifetime.

I was still doing it in high school, another great contribution to my reputation as a weird kid. I quit high school.

Wait a second, I have to turn around 360 degrees now for no rational reason.

I guess I was striving to keep the thin string that keeps me attached to this universe from getting wrapped up too tightly around me, to a point I wouldn't be able to move.

High school was about the time I got really excited about low energy CMOS electronics too. Maybe it was possible to build a super low energy computer with computational and anti-computational states??? (I was thoroughly messed up at this point....)

Eventually I taught myself to step out of the loops before they became constricting and not mind the additional twists in the string.

It's a long string.

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