April is Autism Awareness Month
When I was a teen, I met a young boy with autism. He was the first one I'd met, the younger brother of several girls I was on the recreation swim team with. I'd try to talk to him and his sisters would tell me "He doesn't talk, he has autism. He lives in his own world." They were matter of fact about it and protective of him.
It'd be years before I met another person with that diagnosis.
Twenty five years later, I live with a child with a different type of autism. I have a nephew with autism. My ex brother in law was diagnosed with that same form of autism two years ago (and looking back, it explains a lot.) One of my best friends has a son with PDD-NOS, which is typically the diagnosis given to a younger child prior to the inevitable Aspergers Syndrome diagnosis a year or two later.
Is this due to better diagnostic criteria? Something in the environment? Both? No one knows for sure. For a while, there was a rallying hue and cry that vaccinations caused autism, but I wasn't so sure. Game Teen was a colicky baby, a difficult toddler. We knew he was not the same as other kids very early on, but not what made him different.
It's been eight years since his diagnosis. There have been additional letters added to the alphabet soup that makes up Game Teen, even as recently as this week, more puzzle pieces are being fit into place to explain what makes him Game Teen.
While we know much more about this thing called autism than what the average person knew 25 years ago, there is still too much unknown, too many unanswered questions.
One thing that I do know: having a child on the autism spectrum has given me a window onto a whole different world. I know some people say that we need to find a cure, but I think we just need to find a way to make our world easier for those on the spectrum to navigate.
Towards that end, Game Teen embarks on a new educational journey the week after next. The educators want to trigger his meltdowns to teach him ways to deal with them. Basically, to turn his black and while, concrete world into one that has many shades of gray.
And hopefully, soon, we will have fit another puzzle piece into place.