Thank you for joining me for my first column of Beyond the Spectrum with TheSleuthJournal.com. A few years back I wrote a column by the same name for the Autism at Home Series. I loved the name of my column and loved what it stood for so much that I decided to use it once again.
Beyond the Spectrum, to me, signifies that which is beyond the black and white that forms an image in our minds when we see hear about, read about or meet a person with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Is it fear, intrigue, pity, awe, repulsion, admiration, anger, delight, sorrow… like a flash on lightening the emotions can strike without warning.
The moment when I first hear ‘the’ diagnosis my emotions shuddered. My mind – too befuddled to put a logical sentence together – shut down momentarily. I had the sinking feeling that catapulting into a brick wall at full speed might have hurt less.
The words, your son… “Fits into the autistic spectrum disorder” swam around my head. The words autism and disorder began to two-step across my eyes and blurred my vision. Some creative stroke of genius began to paint Dustin Hoffman’s face all over the face of my son.
What was I going to do? I had no experience with autism. I didn’t know anyone with autism and I had no reference from which to base an opinion or form a reply. I wanted to hit that doctor. I wanted it to be her fault and I wanted her to give me a prescription that would fix his pain, stop his tantrums and start his darling little voice back. The only question that dared to escape the lump in my throat, “What do I do now” was answered with “Come back and see me in six months.” I really wanted to hit her then. I bit my lip.
Something deep inside of me snapped like an ice cycle that vowed to never be that cold again.
I walked out of the hospital in 2001 and I never quit walking. I was mad for awhile. I was sad for even longer. I went through some sort of mourning you could say but I never returned to that hospital and I never quit searching for better answers… beyond the spectrum, you could say.
Isn’t it ironic that when you have a broken leg, you will never see so many other people walking with crutches? And, when you have a miserable cold, every one you know is sniffling, too. Well, when your child is diagnosed with a form of autism, every person you talk with has an opinion. It doesn’t matter that they can’t even spell autism. It’s just a different kind of knowing. Everyone has the answer. Experts all know something. Well, I’m here to say that, unless the self-proclaimed expert is also parent of a child on the spectrum they don’t know what it’s like to live, eat and breathe the 24-7 regurgitation that comes when you dwell in the abyss of confusion. They just don’t ‘get’ it.
From the ‘experts’: He’ll outgrow it. It’s nothing that a good spanking won’t cure.
He’ll need to be on Ritalin by 1st grade. He’s just being a boy. You should put him in a home.
It’s rather mind boggling to me that so many people who know absolutely nothing about autism actually believe that have the market on raising a stranger’s child. Keep in mind that this child is truly an alien in every way. Their brilliant minds work differently; their digestive systems – when the work at all – work in ways that defy medical logic; their since of touch is hyper-sensitive; their abilities to see, feel and understand well beyond their years intimidates the best among us and Yin Yang list continues well into the next galaxy.
For example, on a trip to the Denver ZOO, when my son Tanner was four, he began having a complete meltdown to the point that he was drawing a bit of a crowd. Flailing, frothing, screaming and stomping simultaneously ensued before I could secure my younger son Oliver into the double stroller. I splashed a cup of water in his face and he began to snap out of it. At that time pressure worked to calm him so I wrapped him tightly with a blanket and held him up close to me as he continued to scream and kick his little feet.
A woman nearby, who clearly had nothing better to do, came up to me with one of those if looks could kill I’d be withering faces. “Well, I never… that’s not the way to treat a child,” she stated, a little too loudly. I responded, a little bit louder, “Oh my, you must be an AUTISM expert! PLEASE help me because I’m still learning.” “Oh…” was all she could say as she walked away.
Friends of mine have cards they pass out to others as need be that state the obvious
Try to UNDERSTAND. I’m NOT a brat. I have AUTISM.
I’m doing the best that I can. PLEASE be kind.
Sure, you can make statements like I did; you can pass out cards like my friends do or you can teach others in any number of ways. The best thing that you can do, in my opinion, is to teach a person with autism directly. When a game I made up taught Tanner to talk again with it was his first real breakthrough. When Tanner was five and once again talking, after two and one-half years of grunting, I was working hard to teach him how to pretend.
The day when he came up with his first incredible pretend story his life as a ‘regular’ kid began to emerge. When I started to share this ‘writing a pretend story’ idea with other children, life for this ‘regular’ mom began to emerge, too. Since 2004, I’ve taught over 7,000 ‘regular’ children with all kinds of ‘special’ abilities to write and illustrate a 16 page book. These stories will be published soon, one at a time. The proceeds from each will go toward helping even more special children to emerge.
Two or three times a week I will interview people or groups who are emerging in their own wonderful ways from all over the world and from all walks of life. Their contributions are helping to change the world we live in and, in some small way, I hope to embrace the difference they are making.
What can YOU do to help? Let others know about these stories and contact me if you believe that you or your group should be featured here. And, in the meantime, teach a special person to develop a skill or ability. Help him or her to become their own advocate. Help them to become bolder, stronger and wiser so that you both will be able to see… beyond the spectrum.
By Rhonda Spellman, Founder of The Creative Cranium Concept ®
Creator of ‘The HINT Game’® ‘The Write Story’® and more for children!
Reaching, Teaching and Inspiring Those with Special Abilities