Commenting on “Autism it’s Different in Girls” (& so is ADHD)

looking for images with this post…here’s a great Pinterest site

I recently read an intriguing blog post by someone who has autism but chooses to remain Anonymous…hopefully there will be many other nuggets to mine in her blog as well as the interesting comments sections filled with feedback & unique perspectives.

I had wanted (in my comments below) to go into the girls aspect of Autism and mention how there may be a continuum between Autism and ADHD…I’d read a book a few years back that laid out a good scientific case for this insight.  Later, while doing massive amounts of research for Josiah’s special education needs/case I read a number of things that talked about ADHD and how it presents in females…and in particular how there are some mothers of kids with ADHD (and/or autism?) who were never diagnosed themselves but see so many of their “issues” reflected in their kids struggle…apparently to the point that this is a “thing” that gets some degree of recognition in certain circles.

(ironically, while looking for images found these “circles” supporting my views!)

Autism: Different, Not Less:

(from the above Pinterest board…and almost every item ascribed to my son)

Just a few of the many disorders associated with ADHD. Many have similar symptoms and impairments. Getting the correct diagnosis is further confused by the high morbidity rates associated with ADHD. (View only)                                                                                                                                                      More:

the image above is from this pinterest page

I’ve meant to look back on this topic for my own “edification” but have been mightily depleted by the Special Ed case and fallout that it just hasn’t happened yet.  In our family of 6, 4 have officially been diagnosed with ADHD, & the two that haven’t (myself and Brandon, Josiah’s twin brother) exhibit quite a few of the ADHD traits (but perhaps not enough to rise to the clinical level of diagnosis…but then again who’s actually asking to be “officially” labeled)…so we think we probably both have some part of ADHD, at a minimum.  So if the continuum theory holds water, could it be that people that have ADHD are on the (potentially) mild end of the Autism Spectrum?

It’s so hard to really say and it may in large part depend on who you ask and what their personal practice emphasis (if you only have a hammer then everything looks like a nail and all!) might be…It is supported in research, I believe, that many times the parents of kids on the Spectrum have many of those traits themselves.  Certainly when “we” were growing up awareness of Autism “Spectrum” issues was nowhere near the level it is at now.  Also, if it is shown that there is any level of a genetic component to Autism and/or ADHD it would stand to reason that these things would run in families to some degree.

In my own family, from a retrospective perspective there could be arguments made that both my parents have possessed some traits of ADHD, especially when younger.  At least one of my brothers had many such traits when young and his son was also officially diagnosed with ADHD.  My other brother has a couple of kids that seem to have a lot of such traits too.  My husband wasn’t diagnosed with ADHD until adulthood, but it surely negatively impacted his academic trajectory when younger, even though he has learned to “compensate” for the ADHD issues as an adult, as have most of our kids.

Most everyone in my present family has some degree of sensory issue and we all possess varying degrees of emotional vulnerability, but thankfully this trait is at least somewhat intermittent in most of us!  Could these also be evidence of the “Spectrum” Continuum?

The author of the Autism in Girls post speculates on how important it is to find out what is going on with you and to get that diagnostic label (paraphrasing without re-reading her actual words…so I could already be distorting inadvertently her view) and therefore enable some degree of an “Autistic Identity”.  This apparently resonates with a lot of her readers, at least those who have posted comments.  It’s possible that she  draws in these more “anonymously autistic” people by the very nature of the type of blog she writes, as in people who are on the Spectrum, but can “fake it” sufficiently for the outside world to not know they are autistic…

It’s hard for me to relate to the “need” to find an identity, like in Autism.  And frankly I really do not “get” that aspect of our current culture that seems to think one has to discover a “role model” to emulate in order to aspire to things that no one “like me” has ever done before.  This will likely be controversial, and even offensive to some (sorry)–but Obama being “President” of the US should not really make it any more of less easy for any other “black” person to be the President…if the job was about the merits of the individual aspiring to the position (and who could argue that this election year!) and not about someone’s “identity”…and if he had actually obtained such a job based on his own merits (which he manifestly did Not do based on his abysmally thin resume)–no “white” man with his background, (lack of) accomplishments, known dangerous associates, and incredibly thin skin would have ever gotten near to the place of getting his finger on “the button”…but I digress…

Anyway, I don’t fully get why so many people feel the need to find such a label and thereby get some type of identity by identifying with a group.  Obviously, for anyone who knows me very well, I have spent much of my life in isolation, going against the flow, and refusing to join into whatever “group” (like Groucho Marx I wouldn’t be a member of any group that would have me!)…so the herd mentality is far from appealing to me personally.

I do, however, take a measure of identity from my personal faith…as in I’ve considered myself a strong Christian for the bulk of my life and that remains my primary identity…but I am much more likely to think of myself as a person (even as an intellect) than as a woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee, neighbor, parishioner, or any other ready label, per se…

I will acknowledge, however, when it come to my son with special needs, Josiah, when he was first given the PDD-NOS (atypical autism) label it lead to huge sighs of relief for myself and my husband.  That was because we were dealing with so many issues back then that Autism at least made a degree of sense and it was able to take a number of his significant behavioral anomalies under its umbrella.  It is also true now that Josiah appears to think of himself as “autistic” and he uses that label, perhaps as a shorthand code, as a blanket explanation for various aspects of his quirkiness, at least that’s how it appears to me (I am in no way pretending to speak For him)…

I have spent so much of my life seemingly on the outside of whatever the group thinks it is or what it does that it’s actually harder for me to acquiesce to the “herd mentality”, even in a church setting where people are looking to foster “unity”.  This may be a holdover of the “rugged individualism” of the traditional American ideal that I do internalize to some degree, my own individual personality & intellectual makeup that always goes into suspect analysis mode whenever everyone around me jumps on some bandwagon (or follows some pied piper toward yet another cliff), or even can be an outgrowth of having lived virtually my entire life “counter culture” (especially now that Constitutionally Conservative Christian is virtually a pariah position in this formerly free land of ours).  Perhaps being an “outsider” is enough of an identity that it’s not necessary for me personally to seek other labeling for myself.

As far as role models go, though, as a Christian the Only real role model would be Jesus Christ…and that represents a role that none of us could ever live up to!

Philippians 3:14King James Version (KJV)

14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

King James Version (KJV)Public Domain

above scripture from BibleGateway.com

(image from searching Google images for the scripture…may have been a youtube screen grab..but here is the link for the image…well it wouldn’t paste the link just another image)

So, thanks for listening in…and check out the original post below that my comment following pertains to…and let’s support those amongst us who are learning to speak up and speak out and encourage them to share their hearts with all who might choose to listen and care and handle our human frailties with tenderness and truth…

Blessings,

Valerie

Autism—It’s Different in Girls

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My perspective on this is a bit different in that I am a Parent of someone on the Spectrum who was diagnosed as “PDD-NOS” (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified, aka “atypical autism”) and we got such a “label” for our son when he was still a preschooler. He also had many other issues that were primarily medical in nature and during key points of his life these medical needs really took preeminence (2 open heart surgeries, brain tumor, liver transplant, etc).

Our seemingly biggest challenge overall was in getting the educational system to even pretend to address his Actual Needs. We had years of frustration where they absolutely refused to acknowledge his autism diagnosis (in fact they never officially Did recognize that he was on the Spectrum, though his last Special Ed Case Manager did admit the obviousness of his Autism in private conversations with me). The school system was extremely derelict in its legally mandated duties to my son and we dealt with significant frustrations in this arena for the duration of his public schooling, K-12 (ironically special ed preschool did a Great Job with him, so our frustration was mightily increased by the torments that followed).

One extremely important aspect of special education law (in the US) involves Transition Planning & Services that are required to begin no later than the year the student is to turn 16. These services are to be tailored to the individual needs of the student and should be designed to facilitate their Transition from public school to Independent Living, Post-Secondary Education, and Employment. The ideals of this approach are laid out in detail in US law (IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act & its later “improvement”), but our experience, and likely that of many others, reveals how far short of the legal mandates/standard things are…let alone compared to what should be “ideal” (as in identifying and addressing All areas of known or suspected disability, regardless of diagnostic “labeling”)…My son was “graduated” from high school not even possessing 3rd grade math skills and his now denied Michigan’s through age 26 special education because he “graduated”. I have a cousin with two autistic sons in Arkansas and her older son also “graduated” but struggled so significantly in college that she got him tested and discovered that his reading was only at grade school level even though he had a “diploma”. I don’t know how much she fought for him educationally but I know to what incredible lengths I went to over the years all to virtually no avail…

My son’s Primary Care Doctor, who has a practice devoted to complex special needs kids & families, including a significant cohort on the Autism Spectrum shared a chilling perspective. She said that the “high-functioning” autistic kids, like my son is now (he’s been significantly lower functioning when younger) are not coming close to having their needs met here in Michigan. If they are high enough functioning to be included in regular academic settings then often their “independent living” or functional “life skills” needs often go unaddressed. Once they get out of high school they discover that “the adult services industry” is woefully inadequately prepared to address so many of their needs. Also, because the many systems are so poorly managed and financially irresponsible and/or overburdened many times kids with significant needs do not come close to getting their needs met at any point…

Given that the “higher functioning” autistic kids are probably the ones most likely to be able to “handle it” to some degree in the regular/normal/neuro-typical world it would certainly seem in society’s best interest to help give them the tools and support necessary to foster their highest level of independence while young and thereby ensure a likely increasing percentage of such kids will grow into (nearly) independent adults. This would mean the possibility of significant resource allocation during the earlier years developmentally but should hopefully result in many more of these kids not needing nearly so much public support as they likely would otherwise had such intervention not have been provided. The arguments for early and intensive intervention for Autistic Spectrum kids have surely now made that perspective widely accepted and hopefully there has been sufficient time for data gathering to bolster this view “scientifically”.

In our family’s case, we spent many years and uncountable mental, emotional, spiritual, and financial capital attempting to get our local school system to DO THEIR LEGALLY MANDATED JOB…and these requests were based on data, diagnoses, and clear evidence of myriad needs (many in keeping with autism spectrum issues)…however the real bottom line was that my son got virtually Only what the school felt like offering whether it directly addressed his needs or not. And since they absolutely refused to acknowledge or address his Autism Spectrum issues (which were known as early as 2000 and had written behavioral pediatrician’s orders) he was significantly negatively impacted by not having received these necessary (and technically IDEA mandated) services.

The cost to our family (we had four kids within four years) was/is truly incalculable. I’m not “blaming” the school for all the issues, but had they done their job there are so many things that would have gone differently. For instance my son required significant therapeutic intervention, especially when he was younger, so we would take him to PT (Physical Therapy), OT (Occupational Therapy), SLT (Speech & Language Therapy), Sensory Integration Therapy, Music Therapy (which I tried for years to get the school to provide to assist in re-mediating his Severe Learning Disability in Math), Art Therapy, Psychological Therapy, Visual Therapy, etc…We spent so much of what should have been family free time shuffling him to and from these visits and when I finally stepped back from it one year due to personal overload and burnout basically watched him deteriorate before my eyes. He should have had year round intensive intervention provided by the school but they absolutely refused to analyze or address his very real needs and declines. I actually ended up dragging all my kids to random Vacation Bible Schools over a few consecutive summers just to try to give my Special Needs Son some degree of educational structure (and all the other kids really came to resent this as they got to attend these nearby VBS’s along with their brother). There were a few years when being out of school got so upsetting for my son that he lost his toileting skills…but they immediately returned when school began. This level of distress did not concern school staff at all but it caused significant suffering for my son…and the rest of us.

Well, this obviously went on Way Longer than I intended it to. I’m so glad you are putting your voice out there and speaking up on behalf of yourself and others who may not choose to speak but whose experiences and perspectives resonate with yours. My son has come such a long way from those virtually non-verbal and overwhelming sensory distress days to having discovered himself and continuing to refine his own unique voice. Although “movie quoting” and verbatim dialogue still punctuate much of his communication he can at least now speak as himself so much more freely now than ever before.

Loving someone with autism and living with someone on the Spectrum can certainly be a challenge (and I won’t minimize the major hardships of our personal journey historically &/or presently) but it also presents a tremendous amount of joy as well. Our “special” son is really the heart of our family in so many ways. He is a constant source of entertainment and his humor is so random that it continues to surprise and amaze us all, which is a huge blessing and counterpoint to the stressors. However he also represents a personal bridge between this world and the Kingdom of God (he is a very strong & outspoken Christian)…he has seen the Face of God while undergoing his Liver Transplant and (similarly to his dad) can have a nearly conversational relationship with the Lord. I really believe that his “autism” facilitates this transparency. Just as he doesn’t know how to put a “mask” on in his human relationships, he is virtually incapable of having a barrier between himself and God. Witnessing his Christian Walk is both humbling & encouraging for those who live with him. If he struggles to talk with us earthlings there is no communication barrier with his Heavenly Father…and that is a gift that no “labeling” nor lack of supports could ever diminish!

Blessings, thanks for all you shared, and thanks for letting me “wax eloquent” too here.

Best Regards, Valerie Curren

PS, I wrote more thoughts on your article at my blog here…I’d love to hear back from you on that, if you might be interested…

https://specialconnections.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/commenting-on-autism-its-different-in-girls-so-is-adhd/

this provocative image could lead us to consider these topics further…hmm; from:

http://theemergencesite.com/AutismSpectrumMenu.html

Image result for autism adhd

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