Autism Awareness

When researching for this month’s blog posts and events I could post about, I discovered that yesterday April 2nd was World Autism Day, as sponsored by the United Nations. After doing a little digging, I discovered that the entire month of April is for Autism Awareness. While neither myself nor my immediate family have this neurodevelopmental disorder, I understand the importance of getting as much info as possible on the topic. So I figured I would share some information that I found on it, and share some poems I found as well. I have dealt with individuals who have some form of autism. During my undergraduate career, I was friends with a guy who had Asperger Syndrome. During graduate school, I worked at a foster care agency and one of the children there had severe autism, so I have a little exposure to the disorder. I honestly don’t know too much about it, so I took this as an opportunity to learn more.

University of California – Davis has a Internationally-known research facility called the MIND (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute, where they study developmental delays like Autism, ADHD, Epilepsy, Down Syndrom, Tourette’s Syndrome and many others. According to their website,

“Nearly 1 in 110 children born today have or will eventually have autism.  That means that an estimated 1.5 million Americans and their families struggle with a neurodevelopmental disorder that can limit a child’s lifelong potential for independence.  Autism has no cure.  Its symptoms and severity differ among individuals with the same diagnosis, yet all affected by the disorder have impaired communication skills, difficulties initiating and sustaining social interactions and restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior and/or interests.”

The MIND Institute is involved in some fascinating studies on Autism, including a pre and post-natal program for pregnant women called MARBLES (Markers of Autism Risk in Babies – Learning Early Signs) and another called the Autism Phenome Project (APP), which is one of the most comprehensive studies on Autism ever done. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most children aren’t diagnosed until they are five years old, even though their parents may notice some symptoms when the children are as young as two. So early prevention is key in treating the disorder.

The first poem is not by someone who has the disorder, but rather a special education teacher who regularly dealt with children who had autism. I thought it was an accurate description of the disorder, from what I have observed. The second poem is from an autistic poet, a young man of twenty-three.

I am a Child WITH Autism

by Kathy Booth

Stop it.
Pop it.
Can’t you see?
This birthday party’s not for me.

The noise, the toys,
the girls, the boys…
why even the candles on the cake,
it’s just too much for me to take.

Why oh why
do I feel this way?
Let’s take a look
at what the experts say.

There was a time
when all seemed right.
I cooed and babbled,
I slept the night.

But like a thief
who steals and runs,
the sounds I made
suddenly were none.

You ask, “How, oh how
could this be?”
Where’s the child
you thought I’d be?

Autism is a disorder
affecting my brain,
loud noises and touching
actually cause me pain.

You may not have noticed
but it is true,
the first few months
I barely looked at you.

Social cues,
I just don’t get,
I have no idea
if or why you’re upset.

A smile, a frown
they all look the same.
I cannot read expressions
nor give them a name.

I don’t try to cuddle
I won’t ask for a hug.
I’m sorting my blocks
as I rock on the rug.

Please don’t use phrases
when speaking to me,
like it’s raining cats and dogs,
I take that literally.

And keep my routines
the same day to day
because when you make changes
I may lose my way.

A tantrum, a meltdown
when things aren’t the same,
it’s the unexpected changes
that are to be blamed.

There are other symptoms
some you can see,
I do not interact
I prefer my own company.

Communicating is tough
conversations hard to maintain,
I do not play pretend
but I love to play trains.

I do not know how
to respond to requests.
Family members might be treated
like strangers or guests.

I see the world
in black and white.
Everyone has the same facts
everything is alright.

I don’t know how
to lie or cheat.
Rules must be followed
and that’s pretty neat.

I cannot see
your point of view.
It’s my way of thinking
that only will do.

I will always say
what is on my mind,
even if sometimes
it is not very kind.

Love and support me
and I do believe
that my world will be filled
with endless possibilities.

 

Corvus Frugilegus

by Russell Lehmann

 

I have always loved animals

And they’ve loved me back

My tender caresses

Make them instantly attached

 

The finest of animals

Would have to be birds

Wild birds, in fact,

For their beauty need not words

 

For several years I have observed

All types of avian

Enthusiastically watching them

Glide with the wind

 

I even feed the pests

Crows, rooks and pigeons

Tossing bread left and right

As they follow me in legions

 

But one day occurred

Such an unfortunate deed

When a rook nipped my finger

While I was feeding it seed

 

How mad I became!

I wondered just why

I wanted to strike the bird

And watch it drop before my eyes!

 

An urge of such hatred!

To see it writhe would be nice,

To hear it caw with such pain

As it gives up its fight

 

Sagacious I was

For I clenched the rooks throat

This brought me the joy

That I had such eagerly hoped!

 

As the rook grew weaker

He cawed one last cry

I felt such a release

As it finally died

 

After such an utter rush,

My vision soon left

My senses went numb

As I started to sweat

 

I soon found myself

Jumping out of my bed

Disgusted by my dream

Until I remembered what I had read

 

Just before I drifted off,

I read a short story by Poe

Which must have induced a phantasm

For it indeed induced woe

 

A story of such evil

And of delirious acts

For I feel you must be informed

If you are to read “The Black Cat”

 

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