High Functioning Autism: Gets Better with Age?

My experiences as a mom to a high functioning autistic son may be different than others. Every person has their own traits, quirks and environment that play a toll in changes that happen. This post is based solely on my own experiences of raising a son on the autism spectrum.

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

OCD, Autism, Anxiety and ODD

In Spring of 2014 we received the diagnosis that our son was High Functioning Autistic. After years of counseling, various physiologists and even risky narcotic medications we were at the end of our rope. Nothing was really working and our son didn’t fit into any specific category that anyone could pinpoint. There were some signs of Oppositional Defiance Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Autism, Bipolar and Anxiety to name a few things.  As parents, we did what we thought was best, following instructions of a counselor and psychologist. The medication seemed to be necessary and so we went with it. After multiple medications being switched and tried, our son became immune to the medication. Any medication our son was placed on seemed to stop helping him as quickly as it helped him.

Anxiety OCD ODD and More with Autism

Finding the Right Psychologist

During I believe the month of May 2014 we met with a psychologist who had a son diagnosed as High Functioning Autism. This woman was amazing and opened our eyes to a few things. The most specific example that helped was that she has an adult son who is high functioning so we felt confident that she would have some answers. After witnessing some things our son did, such as lack of eye contact, rocking and the tick he has when he’s excited or overly happy, our son received the diagnosis that he is indeed High Functioning Autistic. Ever since this meeting in Spring of 2014 I have been educating myself on autism and have found that no two autistic people are alike.

Nothing Was Easy and It Shouldn’t Be

The times were difficult when our son was younger because he was not able to effectively articulate the feelings behind his actions. The toddler years and well into age 8 was the most difficult, once our son hit age 9 and now age 10 he has become more aware of his quirks and what works for him. This current year we are faced with the lovely hormonal influxes that every child goes through, combine that with autism and it can make for some challenges. I have more proud moments than not during this particular age with our son, he is more apt to speak up about something that bothers him rather than lash out in anger. He is more apt to tell me things that he is OCD about and other things that just don’t work for him. When I hear my son at age 10 express things that he has noticed about his self, I beam with pride because in my heart I know he is growing up.

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

My Heart Aches

I have many friends with children on the spectrum and my heart aches when I hear about a meltdown. One thing I have learned in this over 10 years of raising a son with autism is that life is unpredictable and until you really get to know your child’s needs and what sets him or her off, life can be challenging. With autistic people not always recognizing politically correct statements nor the feelings of another person you can often have your hands full as a parent. We were once told that our son would never be able to show empathy, to read someone’s facial expressions and to ever really comprehend human nature. I am glad to say we proved “those” people wrong!

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

Teach Skills in a Logical Way vs Emotional Way

I say this, it is false that your autistic child will never understand or express empathy, that they will never be able to read facial expressions or learn how to be socially polite. While there are many parts of the autism spectrum, I firmly believe when raising a child who is high functioning medication is not necessary. What is necessary is the willingness to change the environment, your parenting ways and what your child is around on a day to day basis. It wasn’t easy to morph life in a way that helped our son excel, and each day something new arrives I still struggle with the change. What I decided to do as a parent to a high functioning autistic child is to watch his quirks, really take a look and hear what he has to say. Take in everything about this child over the years and learn to adapt things that can be adapted, change my thinking and learn that he can be empathetic but it’s less emotional for him. Teaching empathy and compassion for our son was more about the logical side, versus an emotional response. Now that he is 10 years old and making a lot of friends, he is better able to feel in ways he couldn’t in the years past.

Finally Told Son he is High Functioning Autistic

Finally Told Son he is High Functioning Autistic

We never did tell our son, he was high functioning autistic until recently, as he does have a 504 and is old enough now where he comprehends to some level what it means. The reality is, he has been raised to think he is just an everyday boy who can be anything he wants to be and is loved unconditionally. Isn’t that what our job is as a parent? To teach all of our children that nothing has to hold them back in life? To be humble, kind, compassionate and learn to be confident with who they are. That’s how parenting has worked for me and now at age 10, I firmly feel taking this child off those risky medications was the best decision ever, it’s been three years since our son took risperidol or any other drug for autism and I wouldn’t go back to it if someone paid me.

Advice to Parents Struggling with Autism

Advice to Parents Struggling with Autism

My advice for you is this: when a professional thinks your child needs all of these medications to survive, perhaps open your mind to saying no. Take a moment to work towards changing how you respond to your child, who is around him and change the environment to suit your child’s needs. You will be shocked at what a child of any diagnosis can do when given  the chance simply by having parents who are willing to exhaust themselves in an effort to prove medications are not always the right answer.

Signs I should Have Seen For Autism

It was 2006. I gave birth to my second child. This was my first born boy. My other child was a girl and age 4. The first born child was easily reaching all milestones, talking ridiculously well at age 2 and advanced in so many ways. I knew the first born daughter was advanced, so when it came to raising another child, I had no idea what the norm was. My son came into this world weighing 9lbs 5oz and being around 19 or 20” in length. My son nursed so frequently that I ultimately gave up on breast and turned to formula when he was around 8 weeks of age. The boy would eat 16oz before even being able to fall asleep for just a few hours at a time.

Life was hard. I walked around with little to no sleep most days for around four years. The struggle was real.

Looking Back – Signs of Autism

While I am not sure if the lack of sleeping was a sign of autism, I know that my son had other characteristics of autism that went overlooked. For example, my first born son needed to have a specific colored bottle for each type of drink. I am uncertain of the exact colors that were for each drink, but he had to have one color cup for juice, one for milk and one for water. If you handed him let’s say the red with juice in it, but the red was normally for water, he would have a total meltdown. He would throw himself down after tossing his cup and proceed to be immensely angry. This was a huge part of his life, often easily angered. We had no idea what to do.

Mom Influence - Signs I should Have Seen For Autism

Mental Health Questions

Since bipolar and other mental health issues run heavily in my family, I simply presumed he had a mood disorder. That’s all that made sense to me, for I had no experience with autism, only mood disorders as I watched my sister grow up being bipolar. Most of the signs my son exhibited to me, were that of someone who was bipolar. Funny thing is, he was actually diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar then finally around age 8 we received a high functioning autistic diagnosis.

Signs of Autism In My Opinion

  • The need to have a specific cup for specific drinks at all times – highly routine driven.
  • Hated Loud Songs, like Happy Birthday song to him, assuming this is part of autism? To this day you cannot sing him Happy Birthday for he hates it with a passion and he’s now 10.
  • Toilet training didn’t occur fully until he was around age 4 years 3 months, that’s only because the pediatrician said it’s been long enough of waiting, let him go diaper free.
  • A delay in fine motor skills. To this day my son is 10 and still has a fine motor skill delay. We had him attending Occupational Therapy once a week for years to work on this.
  • Inability to have empathy without being logical told how to be empathetic. This means he has learned to have empathy but it’s a difficult road to get him to continue to have this concept mastered.
  • A huge love of animals, his dog Jenny sleeps with him every night. Having Jenny the pug sleep beside him was really the first time he started sleeping fully through the night on a regular basis. To this day, my son loves animals, insects, etc more than anything else beyond YouTube!
  • The absolute need for routine, it’s better now that he’s older, but for most of his life he couldn’t have unexpected events happen. For instance, you could go tell him to get his coat on because we were going to head to the store if it wasn’t planned, he would have a meltdown.

My memory may fail me often, so each of these examples are just a few that I recall having to deal with and some days still deal with as signs of autism.

 

Just a boy waiting for his Dunkin donuts #breakfast #holidaybreak

A photo posted by Brandy Ellen (@brandyellen1) on

Not Every Child with Autism is the Same

There are many different signs of autism and the autism spectrum is long, it even includes some mood disorders. So let’s say bipolar is something you are figuring out, this happens to fall closely within the autistic spectrum from what one family counselor told us years ago. You see, my son had many signs of autism but not nearly enough to get a full proper diagnosis until we met with a psychologist whose son has Asperger’s. She knew almost immediately upon meeting my son that he was on the spectrum. The way he rocked when in the room with her, the ticks he has when excited about something and his way of speaking with lack of eye contact. Those are all signs he had back around age 8 when we met with a psychiatrist who specialized in this area of mental health.

Keep on Fighting – Your Child Matters

If you are struggling with some of the things I had struggled with and you see a sign of autism in your child, my advice to you is to continue fighting. Do not take medications for your child thinking it will fix it. Trust me – my son was placed on some heavy duty anti-psychotic drugs and others from ages 4 up until age 8 when we walked away from medications completely and simply made lifestyle changes. The medications have left this boy with everlasting side effects that I won’t disclose as that’s his personal medical information. The road was rough, but we continued to meet new counselors and psychiatrists until finally we had an answer and a way to move forward that made sense!

Keep fighting for your child, you are the only one who can influence what happens in their life and it is your job to continue the long, sleepless night battle until you feel resolve.