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'My son can't be autistic'

By Diana Noble          Send a link to a friend

[APRIL 15, 2005]  SPRINGFIELD -- "My son can't be autistic." That was my first thought as my husband and I sat in a room with David Decker, M.D., from SIU School of Medicine, as he explained to us that our 6-year-old-son, Michael, had Asperger syndrome.

I knew Michael was a hyperactive child, but I wouldn‘t have described him as autistic. When I thought of autism, I thought of the character that Dustin Hoffman portrayed in the movie "Rain Man." I pictured someone who would have a lost look in their eyes, a blank stare, a person of few words, slow mentally and not really sure what is going on around them.

My husband and I described Michael more like a pinball machine. He was bouncing off the walls most of the time. We thought this was why he didn't sit down and play for any length of time. He was always on the run with a matchbox car gripped in each hand but never really sitting down and playing with them.

Mike also had a few odd clothing behaviors that I really didn't give a whole lot of thought to. If the seams of his socks were not lined up perfectly across his toes or his shoes were tied too tightly, he would rip them back off. If I left a tag in his clothing, he would tug at it and tell me it hurt. As soon as he walked in the front door to the house, he would strip down to his underwear, and that's the way he would stay until we left the house again.

When Michael was about 2˝ years old, he started throwing some temper tantrums. As any mother, I thought this was "the terrible twos." What wasn't normal about his tantrums, though, was that he never outgrew them. It got to the point that every time I took him in public, he would make a scene. There were many times I took him out of a store kicking and screaming, with everyone staring at us on the way out to the car. By the time he was 4 years old, I wouldn't even go to the grocery store without my husband's help.

Once Michael started school, we noticed that his social skills weren't the same as the other kids his age. At recess, he wouldn't play with the other children. He would rather be off alone looking in the grass for frogs instead of playing on the swings with his other classmates.

He talked very well for his age. He would have a little trouble articulating a clear sentence sometimes but nothing to really get concerned about. We noticed that what he would say wouldn't be totally true. He seemed to have a very creative imagination.

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As time went on, trouble with Michael seemed to get worse. It got to the point that Michael didn't even want to leave the house in the mornings to go to school. He didn't want to leave my side. We would have to drag him to the car, buckle him in and take him into the school. The principal at the school informed me that he was just spoiled rotten and needed tougher discipline. So that's what we tried.

Boom!!! It was like a huge bomb that went off in my house. The tantrums escalated, and he refused to go back to school at all. He would have horrible fits, his eyes would become glassy, and he would kick, scream and bite. These tantrums could last up to five hours at a time. I was receiving pressure from the school because of his absenteeism, and I was extremely exhausted from trying to handle him. That is how we ended up under Dr. Decker's diagnostic care.

Once I had accepted the idea that my son was autistic, I began reading as much material I could, to understand Asperger syndrome. We received a tremendous amount of help and support from Dr. Georgia Davis, Dr. Daniel Amen, many seminars and workshops, SASED and their wonderful teachers, occupational therapy, speech therapy, social skills training, and from other parents of children in the autistic spectrum.

Today, Michael is 14 years old and is doing very well. He is being treated for left temporal lobe seizures and anxiety disorder. We are continually working on developing his social skills, he is being home-schooled to avoid unnecessary peer pressure and to help with sensory issues, and his tantrums are almost nonexistent. We still have problems that pop up from time to time, but with help from Karen Kirkendall, Ph.D., associate professor at the UIS Department of Psychology in Springfield, and our support group, the Asperger Syndrome Support and Awareness of Central Illinois, we are able to work through most of them with success.

I asked Michael what it has been like to have Asperger syndrome, and he responded, "You have to take the good with the bad. It is hard sometimes to get a friend, but once you do, it is worth it."

[Diana Noble, Asperger Syndrome Support and Awareness of Central Illinois]

Life Sentence, No Parole

If we tried to invent the cruelest punishment for dogs, we probably couldn't come up with anything worse than "solitary confinement" on a chain or in a kennel.

Dogs are pack animals who crave the companionship of others.  Scratches behind the ears, games of fetch, or even just walks around the block mean the world to them.  Curling up at your feet while you watch TV is their idea of heaven.

Many dogs left to fend for themselves at the end of a chain fall prey to attacks by other animals or cruel people, and many others are injured or hanged or choke as a result of getting entangled or caught in their tether.

If you have a backyard dog, please, bring him or her inside.  They don't want much--just you.

A public service announcement from Lincoln Daily News and helpinganimals.com

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