This page is a lot easier to run if you write me your questions. Feel free to ask, and I will do my best to answer.
What is autism?
It is in fact hard to describe. There is a saying: “If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.”
Every person with autism is so different, because of the unique challenges his or her sensory system gives them. Basically the person with autism has difficulties connecting with the world around them. They are often withdrawn, and seem to live in a world of their own. They engage in repetitive activities, and don’t develop like other children. I have a theory to what causes autism, and there are hundreds more out there. Whatever causes it, it is clear that at some point the brain doesn’t make the same connections as neuro-typical brains. Some autistic people have truly remarkable abilities, and some have severe challenges.
We experience the world around us through our senses (taste, touch, vision, hearing, proprioceptive, and vestibular, smell), and for most people the brain translates the stimuli correctly into an organized package of information. To the autistic person however the stimuli doesn’t get translated correctly. Some senses may be hyper and some hypo sensitive. Imagine for example the feel of soft silk on your skin. To you it feels great. But for an autistic person who is hyper sensitive to touch, that same silk may feel like steel wool, and they will cringe and scream at the slightest touch. Or imagine you’re in a hut in the alps having some hot chocolate, and then step out into the bright, blinding, sunlight that’s reflecting off the snow. Then imagine feeling that searing pain, and the need to close your eyes all the time, because somehow you’re brain translates the slightest sliver of light like the blinding sunlight. That’s what autistic people have to deal with, every minute of every day. I addition to the sensory challenges they have gastro-intestinal problems, and weak immune systems.
What’s with the numbers on the website?
Ezra adores all things numbers and letters. He’s always loved numbers, and from an early age could count in several languages. In fact his very first word was the German word for eight, “acht”. He would go to sleep trying to pronounce numbers over and over. Ezra loves numbers so much, he memorizes things like license plates, birthdays, and even knows all the page numbers in most of the music books we have around the house. We have but to ask him what page a certain song is on and he’ll tell you. When he meets someone new he immediately asks them what their house number is. He knows everyone’s house numbers. The other day I caught him memorizing his class phone list. In devotion to his house number love, we use numbers on the site.
What exactly is an -ism?
An -ism is the name for an exclusive repetitious behavior, typical of autistic children. There are basically three types of isms:
- Gross-motor such as rocking, bouncing, jumping, swinging, crashing into things, spinning in circles, etc.
- Fine-motor isms, watching TV, pushing buttons, rubbing the same spot on the floor, flicking pen in front of face, watching things spin, etc.
- Vocal isms: repeating the same words over and over, talking about the same subject, asking the same questions, screaming or making any variety of noises (especially in non verbal children) like eee, eee, eeeeee, eee, ee, eeeeee.
How can you tell if it’s an ism?
Remember that isms is another way of saying repetitious exclusive behavior? If he/she is being exclusive, i.e. there is no eye contact, doesn’t react to name, and will just go back to their repetitious activities, they are ism-ing. Another easy way to see if they are being exclusive is trying to tell them to stop and they don’t. If they have a huge fit if you try to discontinue it, it’s probably an ism.
Why do autistic people ism?
sms are always calming and beneficial to the person doing them. It is what an autistic person does to take care of himself/herself, by doing something that feels calming, organizing, and predictable. The world is a jumble of chaotic stimuli to his/her nervous system. Neuro-typical people can sort out, organize, and tune out stimuli. The autistic child can’t. Isms are about control. That’s why you can’t tell them to stop. The Son-Rise program is unique in its approach that it doesn’t try to correct the behaviors we typically view as weird, inappropriate, strange, uncomfortable, bad or just plain annoying. Instead we remove our judgment of that behavior. When we work with Ezra for example, we join in his isms by copying him exactly, trying to really understand what he is getting from it, showing him that if he isn’t comfortable in our world, then we will enter his. Most often truly joining him for 15-20 minutes results in him feeling safe and stopping his ism to engage with us. If however we insist on him stopping so we can play and engage, it will go on for hours.
What’s up with the weird behavior?
Behavior is always communication. It is a language, one that I as a parent have learned to read so well, that I am sometimes amazed that other parents don’t understand why their children are acting the way they do (for example if a child is screaming like crazy, there seems to be nothing wrong, but they are covering their eyes, they could simply be very sensitive to bright light. Give them a cap or some sunglasses and they’re fine). All kids use behavior to communicate, before they have words to express their needs. The infant learns that cries produce results in form of food, comfort, and a smiling, loving face. And the mother gets so tuned in to those cries, that she knows how to distinguish “I’m bored, play with me” from “my diaper is wet.” The first thing we learn in communicating is body language. One of the reasons autistic people have such a hard time socially is because they don’t feel comfortable for whatever reason watching people. With no eye contact, we don’t learn and mimic. That doesn’t mean that they don’t develop their own body language though. Behavior is a real language, and once you are tuned in to it, you will find that autistic people will open up to you. For example, Ezra often crashes into things and jumps around a lot. You could write that off as hyper, but really it’s an indication that he can’t feel his legs well, and there is a sensory need that is not being met. When you know that, instead of condemning the behavior, you can facilitate his need, which will earn you an opportunity to connect.