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
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
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
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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]