My first exposure to Autism was Mr. Hen. Mr Hens was a 50-year-old man who was diagnosed at USC when he was a child but his parents believed that if they ignored the diagnosis and treated him like a “normal” child that he would grow up to be “Normal”. They were endlessly frustrated at his easy fixations, his robotic speech, inability to have typical social interactions and eventually they shunned him.
By the time I met Mr. Hen he was homeless and living on Skid Row. I tool him to Downtown Mental Health for evaluation and the therapist told him that he was retarded. Imagine a very ugly scene of a very angry Sonya screaming at a psychiatrist and filing complaints and a very shocked Mr. Hen. I took him to Lanterman Regional Center and he was evaluated again and for the second time in his life he was diagnosed with Autism. He started therapy for his behaviours and for the depression he understandably had after years of not fitting in.
Mr. Hen now lives in transitional living and is doing very nicely – although he still likes to shred phone books by hand to sooth himself when he is upset. It makes his room look like a hamster cage so I am always helping him clean it up when I visit – buy I do enjoy having a good use for those pesky phonebook delivered to my door.
Now, as a mom and a friend, I am seeing Autism all over the place – particularly in the homes of my friends with young children. I remember the first time I noticed one of them had a little boy who didn’t speak much and wandered off from the group. His mom is now a vocal advocate for Autism, but probably still a little mad at me for pointing out that he had more than a speech problem.
Another friend has two children, the oldest one is a girl. She was telling me about her baby brother and when she said he had “Autism” – I heard “Awesome”. With her input, an e-book was written to explain what Autism looks like in her home. It is a gentle reminder that someone with Autism is not broken, just more sensitive and that Autism touches an entire family. You don’t need a Kindle or Droid to read the book – it reads just fine on a computer screen. All profits from the book go to the little boy for his therapy. Check it out and let me know what you think!
All you need is an Amazon.com account – you know – the one you use for shopping online. In the box to the right where it asks what device you want it sent to – click the line to read on your PC. An e-book reader will open on your screen.