Autism Awareness by Susan R. Hughes

Autism awareness day designWith Word Autism Awareness Day coming up on April 2, I thought I’d share my personal story.

Most of us are aware of autism, but like many people, I didn’t know a lot about the disorder before my daughter was diagnosed at the age of 4. At first I didn’t believe the diagnosis. My child was nothing like the autistic characters I’d seen on TV and in films like Rain Man. I thought kids with autism fit a particular profile: fixated with routine, bothered by loud noises, resistant to physical contact, and unable to connect emotionally with people.

But I’ve since learned that autism affects people in many different ways and to different degrees, which is why it’s referred to as Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My daughter adapts well to changes in her routine and loud noises don’t faze her. She’s highly social, loves parties and enjoys hugs. She’s happy being with people and talking to them, but since she has trouble grasping the rules of social interaction and controlling her emotions, it’s difficult for her to form friendships.

Now 11 years old, she still has tantrums when things don’t go her way. She can be rude and demanding, and sometimes aggressive. Her behaviour can lead to puzzled looks, awkwardness and judgment from those who don’t know or understand her diagnosis. As she gets older, people will be less forgiving.

It’s important to realize that people with ASD do have feelings, and they form strong emotional attachments. They may not be able to express their emotions, but those feelings are just as strong as anyone else’s. Though they struggle with social interaction, they have the same desire for relationships. Imagine the frustration and loneliness when you want to connect with people but can’t figure out all the subtleties the rest of us find intuitive.

Since children with ASD learn differently, keeping up in a regular school can be difficult. My daughter attends a private school for kids with learning disabilities. It took her longer to learn to read and write, but she’s a gifted writer and artist with a vivid imagination. I hope that when she’s old enough to enter the workforce, she’ll be given a chance. Employers are beginning to realize that people with ASD can be highly focused and diligent workers. Even with the challenges they face, they can contribute to society and have full lives. What more could a parent want for their child?

14 thoughts on “Autism Awareness by Susan R. Hughes

  1. My nephew’s youngest son is autistic, and he rarely connects with people outside of his immediate family. But for some reason he seems to like me, yet my contact with him as been very limited over the years. He’s now sixteen but when he was younger, he’d come into the room where I was and jabber at me. I might have been able to understand two words. All I could do was look at him as he spewed his jabberwocky, but I gave him my attention, and I realized that for some reason he wanted to converse with me. Even his parents found it strange that he had this odd desire to reach out to me. Fortunately he now actually speaks and I can understand what he says. But that little connection still exists. The minute I walk through the door, if he is there, he comes to me and tells me all about some computer game with a cartoon character.

    His schooling as been difficult, but when it comes to the computer… Let’s just say he wasn’t quite four when his mom couldn’t get the printer to work. He realized her frustration and watched her for a few minutes. Then he almost pushed her out of her seat. He started clicking on a few things, which scared her, as he brought up a screen she’d never seen. He made a few program changes and suddenly her printer started working. And as much as he loves computer games and as good as he is on a computer, I hope that someday he learns computer programming because he has a gift for it.

    Never underestimate these children. They are indeed puzzling!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Susan, thank you for sharing your story with others outside our group. I know you’ve worked so hard to create a happy home filled with love for all your children. You’ve shared some of your challenges and some of your heartbreak. Through it all, you keep fighting the good fight. I have a feeling your girls–all of them–will do you proud. You’re a good mom.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Susan, thank you for raising awareness of the broad spectrum of characteristics those who have been diagnosed with ASD and Asperger’s syndrome can have. As a child advocate I had the opportunity to learn about the challenges facing the families and those who have the diagnosis. Your daughter is certainly lucky to have a mother as knowledgeable and compassionate as you–she’ll have lifelong advocates in her family. What a gift. On a personal note, I have a nephew who has many of these characteristics and is going on to Penn State in the fall studying physics and engineering. He is smarter than anyone I know. Although, as a pre-teen and teen he had some social challenges, he has adapted and met those challenges well. No one who didn’t know him well as a child, or who doesn’t know him well now, would ever know of the challenges he faces and surmounts daily. We love him and are very proud of all he’s accomplishing. Every time I see him, he makes me smile. Thanks again for your incredibly moving and enlightening post. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a beautiful post! And what a blessing to have her and for her to have you. I am sure she sees her amazing mother writing and working to be her best and this makes her do the same w/ her writing. So lovely that you have such a wonderful thing to share, besides your life for each other you have a love of words. Really, really enjoyed this one. Thanks Susan!


  5. Susan, it’s wonderful that you understand your daughter’s problem so well and are able to help her adjust. She’s a gifted girl and will do well in life with your loving guidance. You are an excellent and caring mom.


  6. My nephew has Asperger’s. When he was a child, we noted his twin sister did most of his communicating for him, and he had a real thing for numbers. We never thought more than that until he went to school. School was difficult for him because he didn’t really understand the nuances of socializing. His mother would hear the general excuses and accusations: he’s shy, he’s rude, he’s lazy, he’s bright but doesn’t apply himself, yadda, yadda, yadda. He was a pre-teen when he was finally diagnosed. Now, he’s a happy young man who still struggles from time to time. Having a supportive family is crucial. Your daughter is fortunate she has you to understand and back her up.


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