A Tragic Relationship With Autism

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Honestly, I wasn’t sure how to start this post.  I have had a lot of thoughts these past two weeks, especially after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.  It simply has been heart wrenching for me to even think about the pain these 27 families, have endured with the horrific shooting that Adam Lanza unleashed upon such innocent lives, changing their lives forever.

This hit me first as a mother to a first grade special needs child, my youngest, and the only one in public school, as I home school Joshua’s older brother and sisters.  Joshua, as those other children across the country, is only 6 years of age and my most vulnerable child.  He goes to school because he needs the treatment for autism that his school provides so wonderfully for him to benefit and grow. I am so grateful for the people who work with Joshua and love him so much.  I know they would do whatever they could to keep him safe.  In fact, I can tell that the kids have been doing emergency drills as Joshua comes home and mimics an alarm and acts out the routine for when the alarm goes off, often going outside the back door into the yard.  I’m glad he’s learning what to do and has loving, capable adults to teach him and guide him to safety when I can’t be with him.

The second area that this devastating act affected me was as a mother of an autistic child.  As soon as I heard that Adam Lanza was diagnosed “autistic” I thought, “Oh no!  This is going to severely affect the autism community, who already has a lot to contend with as it is.”  I’m grateful that a lot of effort has been placed on describing what autism is and isn’t.  I saw an interview posted online from The View in which a Forensic Psychiatrist explained that Adam’s autism masked deeper issues he must have had.  He emphasized that his extreme focus on violent video games probably contributed even more to what he did to the people he killed.  The games, especially to someone with autism, desensitizes them all the more to how one’s behavior affects others.  Autistic kids really struggle socially, especially with empathy.   We don’t know what went on with Adam’s treatment, if any, aside from the fact that he was exceptionally intelligent.  That may come out at some point, but what we do know is that he had poor social skills, isolated himself and had no friends.

What attracted me to the program Joshua is in is the fact that they work with children with autism on their social skills.  I have a “Social Stories” book that Joshua received as a present last Christmas, I believe, that I still need to start working with him on, to help him understand social situations and how to act.  All the treatment he is receiving includes some aspect of social skills and it’s something I really want to emphasize with Joshua.  He is a social kid a lot of the time, but he has a long way to go as he still lives in his own world or marches to his own beat.  The kids he is around are quite compassionate and reach out to him, but we have a lot of hard work to do to draw him in to engage with others.

I can’t help but see how this tragedy has touched all of us in some way.  Our hearts ache for the lives that were lost.  My heart also aches for the life of Adam Lanza.  A lot more has been learned about autism than from when Adam was a child.  With the rate currently at 1/88 children and 1/65 boys, we still have a lot to learn about how to help these kids socially grow.  Unfortunately, the focus of how to stop future gun violence tends to look at the surface issues, albeit gravely important:  keeping guns out of the hands of those who could harm themselves and others.  However, how many kids who turn to gun violence were lead there by violent video games?  How many were influenced by the medication they were on or decided to stop taking?  As we know with autism, many of these kids have been damaged by environmental toxins (85% of autism cases are a result of environmental factors) and instead of seeing how to help these kids heal, they are simply being medicated for their symptoms.  What if every kid were truly treated biomedically to see what isn’t working right and seek to heal it, not just stop a behavior with medication?  What if these autistic kids are not simply “accepted” for being different, but actually helped so they can grow socially and emotionally?  They have a long journey due to their disability, but it doesn’t mean they can’t learn.  So many have recovered and improved to such a point that they are now off the spectrum all together.  That is possible for countless more, but we, as a community need to not only embrace these kids, but put in the hard work with them, to help them develop the social skills (among others) they lack.  Encourage their same age peers to invest their time and forge a friendship with these kids.  Yes, they are hard to approach or engage, but there is so much beneath the surface.  In the case of autistic kids, still waters run deep, extremely deep, but to get to the treasure beneath, you have to work hard and dig.  By all means, don’t give up on these kids.  They, too, are made in the image and likeness of God.  It does so much good for us all to not only take notice of a child with autism’s struggles, but to walk alongside them as they heal and recover because we are a vital part of their healing and development.  These kids are a part of our community and need to be embraced, not discarded.

So  while I fear for those who will be harmed because of the ignorance around autism; kids who are already struggling being mistreated all the more and ostracized in the wake of Sandy Hook’s tragedy, I also hold out hope.   From what I’ve read of the lives of the 20 precious children who were taken away so violently the morning of December 14, 2012, these were kids who loved and cared for others, as modeled by their devoted and loving family, friends and teachers.  That is what the majority of people are like, especially children who are taught to value all people for the gifts they are.  Despite the trials of those suffering in Sandy Hook’s wake, God is there in the midst of  pain, holding close His loved ones and offering comfort to those left behind.  He is also the God of mercy.  No one knows the mind set of Adam Lanza, and what led him to do such a unthinkable, horrendous act.  I will leave his eternal fate to the One who created him.  I can’t begin to make sense of it, but I do know that on that day, Jesus wept.  He wept for all who lost their lives that day.  I will trust in Him.

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‘Twas 11 days before Christmas, around 9:38When 20 beautiful children stormed through Heaven’s gate.Their smiles were contagious, their laughter filled the air.They could hardly believe all the beauty they saw there.They were filled with such joy, they didn’t know what to say.

They remembered nothing of what had happened earlier that day. “Where are we?” asked a little girl, as quiet as a mouse.

“This is heaven.” declared a small boy. “we’re spending Christmas at God’s house.”

When what to their wondering eyes did appear, But Jesus, their Savior, the children gathered near. He looked at them and smiled, and they smiled just the same. Then He opened His arms and He called them by name. And in that moment was joy, that only Heaven can bring.

Those children all flew into the arms of their King And as they lingered in the warmth of His embrace, one small girl turned and looked at Jesus’ face. And as if He could read all the questions she had He gently whispered to her, “I’ll take care of mom and dad.” Then He looked down on earth, the world far below He saw all of the hurt, the sorrow, and woe.

Then He closed His eyes and He outstretched His hand, “Let My power and presence re-enter this land!” “May this country be delivered from the hands of fools.  I’m taking back my nation. I’m taking back my schools!”

Then He and the children stood up without a sound. “Come now my children, let me show you around.” Excitement filled the space, some skipped and some ran. All displaying enthusiasm that only a small child can. And I heard Him proclaim as He walked out of sight, “In the midst of this darkness, I AM STILL THE LIGHT.”

Written by Cameo Smith, Mt. Wolf, PA

 

 

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 27th, 2012 at 9:43 pm and is filed under Autism Treatment, Diagnosing Autism, General Autism Info. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

 

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