Monday, January 11, 2016

Mild Autism's Social Challenges

I came across a quote the other day that said, "The difference between mild autism and severe autism is that  when you have mild autism your challenges are ignored and when you have severe autism your strengths are ignored." true is that? I'm going to focus on the mild autism part of that quote today.
I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "Andrew doesn't look like he has autism." or "Andrew seems just fine to me."
I am here to tell you folks that he most definitely has autism, it is just MILD. The complete opposite of Trenton. The most common traits are the following:

  • Avoidance of eye contact
  • Staring at others
  • Unusual facial expressions
  • Abnormal posture
  • Inability to recognize changes in speech tone and pitch, which could change the meaning of what the person is saying
  • Speaking in a monotone voice
  • Intolerance for changes in routine
  • Lack of social skills
  • Difficulty starting or maintaining social interactions
  • Difficulty taking turns talking (dominates conversations)
  • Difficulty reading other people's body language
  • Advanced language skills for his age
  • Talking a lot about certain topics with which he has a preoccupation
  • Verbalizing internal thoughts
  • Delayed motor development
  • More interested in parts of items than the whole item
  • Hypersensitivity to lights, textures, tastes, noises and other stimuli (also known as sensory integration dysfunction)
As you can see, many of the symptoms for mild autism involve social relations. Andrew can most certainly fool people with this. Andrew can be perfectly fine with social interactions in his own home and when is around familiar people. Sadly, Andrew just like many children with mild autism, does not handle social situations in unfamiliar areas with a lot of stimulation, a lot of noise, lights, etc. On some days, Andrew isn't as preoccupied with objects or obsessions. When he isn't, his social interactions tend to be better. However, when he does have days where he can't get his obsessions out of his mind his social interactions are terrible.

I have witnessed Andrew in many situations over his 4 years and it is very heartbreaking to watch him in situations with a lot of stimuli. It still continues to be very difficult for him even now. This past Saturday I took him with me to an alumni event at my high school. Andrew appeared to be doing very well but he really wasn't. He was playing with a group of kids, one kid was his cousin who was his age. Andrew had a difficult time playing with them because he didn't know what to do. The kids ended up leaving him out because Andrew was so socially awkward at one point. Andrew started crying and said that he wanted to be by himself. When he is upset he wants to be by himself. I took him to a quiet place and tried to get him to talk to me. Andrew said, " I can't talk." This is Andrew's response when he is overstimulated and had too much. It broke this Mommy's heart to watch her child cry silent tears. I have heard several parents of kids with Asperger's and mild autism say that their child is unable to talk. Many children end up talking to their parents by writing things down. However, many are unable to express how they feel so they keep it buried inside.

Andrew had a difficult time entering into the small high school gym. He couldn't handle the lights, noise, and all the unfamiliar people. I worked with him for a long time to get him to enter into the gym to watch the game. He finally did with the help from Uncle Brian but it didn't last long. He wanted out and wanted to go home.
This is just one situation. Sadly, I have other situations like this where  Andrew's challenges are very obvious. Too often than none, it is so easy to see Andrew in the comfort of his own home and with loved ones to say that he appears to have no challenges. Unfortunately, with mild autism, the challenges get more evident as they get older and more heartbreaking for the Moms like me because instead of our children maturing with their peers, they simply don't.

People with Asperger's syndrome and mild autism are great in their regular environment. However, get them out of that and it is very devastating to them.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Angie. That was actually very helpful. I'm afraid I have been one of those people who did not see the autism in Andrew. Your post really does help to explain what mild autism is like.