Hello. This is my son.
Remember those posts? Remember them like it was yesterday?
Yeah so anyway. He is seven years old.
INEXORABLE MARCH OF TIME??!!!!
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In the years since I last discussed his condition on this site, we have learned that he has classical autism rather than Aspergers (as previously speculated). Autistic kids are often classified as either “high-functioning” and “low-functioning”, but Squig falls somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information has a rundown of common symptoms, starting with:
Children with autism typically have difficulties in:
- Verbal and nonverbal communication
- Social interactions
- Pretend play
“A fondness for bacon bordering on fervor” is not specifically mentioned as a symptom, but Squig has that as well.
Squig is a strict pragmatist when it comes to language, and will only use it to make requests (“I want video”) or observations (“that is a dog”). He will respond to questions so long as there is a concrete answer. But he does not trade in linguistic abstraction. Ask him how he is feeling, or how his day went, and he will reply with “fine”–not because he has processed your question and formulated a response, but because he recognizes this as an acceptable answer. As with his father, he is adept at getting by without a clue as to what he is saying.
You cannot hold a conversation with Squig, But that does not preclude communication. Our most meaningful interactions are physical: wrestling, tickling, swimming, rolling skating. He is way into dancing right now.
“Difficulty with pretend play” may not seem like a big deal, and has certainly saved us a fortune in action figures, but actually has some profound ramifications. After all, the “point” of play is to practice skills. And so, as with many autistic children, Squig has difficulty learning via imitation. You can’t teach him to brush his teeth by showing him how you brush your own, you have to put the toothbrush in his hand, guide the brush to his teeth, make his do the strokes, and so forth. To get him through any complex task (and just about every non-instinctual task that people do is complex, it turns out), we use a process called chaining. Chaining involves the breaking down of a task into discrete steps, and linking them together. Rather than teach him to “brush his teeth”, we taught him to (a) get his toothbrush and then (b) turn on the water and then (c) wet the bristles and then …
In the autism community, chaining is everywhere.
Squig’s impairments are social and not cognitive. His math skills are fine, for instance. His reading level is ridiculous. He’s currently attending a public school, with a mix of special education services and regular classroom integration, but we expect to move him to a specialized school next year.
Here he is on the first day of Kindergarten:
(And because everyone asks, this is his lunchpail:
Totally awesome, I know. Though I am deeply disturbed that all of the animals on the lunchbox have associated vocalizations except for the alligator, which instead has a noise associated with an action. This seriously bothers me. WHY NO DOCTOR I HAVE NO IDEA WHERE HIS AUTISM CAME FROM!)
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During a recent meeting with my son’s support team in which we were charting out his plan for the coming years, we took a moment to inventory his strengths and challenges. Number one on the list of his advantages was “charisma”.
Squig has an easygoing manner that people find endearing. His joie de vivre is infectious. Other kids are drawn to him. Like all young seven-year-old boys he has moments of defiance and aggression and omg will you stop running in the kitchen for just one second will you STOP?!! But on the balance he is just the most delightful kid to be around.
And, as a result, people will really go to bat for him. Whenever we encounter obstacles, some indefatigable member of Squig’s support team will tuck him under her arm and run into whatever endzone we are currently striving for, knocking opponents left and right. They will totally sweep the ice as he glides down the curling sheet toward a developmental house (wanted to include a sports analogy for my Canadian readers as well).
To be fair, they would do this for anyone in their care–people who work with special needs children are the most beneficent and indefatigable you will ever meet. But, even so, Squig has amassed an impressive cheering section. He is well loved.
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Yesterday was Squig’s birthday. I asked him what he wanted and he said, “Fritos”. I asked what else he wanted and he said, “Itsy Bitsy Spider”. Kiddo, you got it.