Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Lighter Side of Autism

When people first learn that you have an autistic child, you hear a lot
of "I'm so sorry" and "the poor kid" among many other expressions of
concern and condolences. While we appreciate the thought behind the
expressions, I am finding that Micah's autism has a great blessing
attached to it. It has given us the message to "lighten up" in our lives.

Joe and I both laugh a lot and easily. It is something that we enjoy
about each other. Add to that 2 young children who are giggly and you
have a family that laughs daily. We can find the humor in most
situations. Abigail is such a "big little person" as Joe calls her. At
4 years of age, she can say things that take you by surprise. Such as
when she is telling you about her phone conversations on her play phone
with her imaginary friend "boo-boo head". She talks like she is a much
older person than her age and her facial expressions are very serious.
It is hard not to laugh as she goes on about the latest antics of
boo-boo head.

Micah has been a blessed surprise. I have seen autistic children who
show no facial expressions of any kind. Their faces are very blank in
that regard. Micah does not share that trait. One thing that the
doctor and others comment on the most is how happy and expressive he
is. Yes, he sometimes gets frustrated or angry, but most of the time he
is a very happy little boy. We work with him daily in helping him to
interact and develop social skills. The work has been paying off in a
very big way.

As I have mentioned before, when Micah was first diagnosed last
September, he was not maintaining eye contact or interacting with
others. It was as if he often had no idea there was anyone else in the
room with him. Then, I found the Christian-based organization
NATHHAN.org. They have been giving me advice and guidance as well as
the support to show me how to work with Micah and draw out his
personality. Micah is a very cheerful kid most of the time and is now
interacting with us. Today is a good example of his newly acquired
sense of silliness.

Throughout the day today, I have been the target of Micah's teasing.
One note to remember is that he never has teased anyone before. Things
have changed. Micah has learned how to tickle. He doesn't tickle with
his fingers as a person normally would, but it is more of a quick
rolling of his hands that still has the same results. Off and on during
the day, he has come up behind me and tickled me. Whether it is when I
was standing at the stove cooking, sitting at the desk, or doing some
other activity. If I was standing/sitting still long enough for him to
get to me, he was tickling me, giggling as he did so. What a change
from the way he was just a few months ago. It would seem that my little
one has an ornery side to him. LOL This evening, Joe got to see
Micah in action. As I sat here trying to answer emails, Micah kept
coming up and tickling my stomach or legs.

Now, as cute/funny as that is, here is where we really started laughing
- like many with autism, Micah has the obsessive/compulsive trait. This
means that once he finds something that he enjoys, he stays with it.
You can't easily distract him from the activity. So, the tickling went
on for a while. He would giggle and tickle me. I would say "You tickle
Momma, Momma tickle you" and tickle him back. He enjoyed the game and
you could really see the true joy he was getting from playing with
Momma. Now, I could start thinking about how this game could become a
problem if done at the wrong time (say during a church service) or for
too long. We will deal with that when it comes up. Today, we simply
enjoyed the game.

If this is a peek into the personality our little one will have, we are
truly blessed with a son who is as joyful and happy as his sister. The
doctor has pointed out twice now to me that she believes that Micah and
Abigail's happy natures come from Joe and I being quick to laugh and
have fun. I see it simply as a gift from our Lord. It is God's Spirit
working through us that brings out the joy. I feel blessed to have these
little ones who remind me daily of the joy the Lord brings to us.

May the Lord's blessings be with thee,