Tag Archives: autism

Get educated

World Autism Awareness DayToday is World Autism Awareness Day and this year, as in years past, I’ve decided to take the day as an opportunity to discuss with you the disorder that affects 1 out of 68 American children. The disorder strikes more boys than girls, but only just. It strikes across racial and class lines. It is pernicious and it is growing and we still don’t have any idea what causes it, how it develops, or how to treat it effectively.

When I first started seeing a psychiatrist for meds five years ago, he did a full diagnostic work-up on me and said that, yes, I suffer from Bipolar II, but I manifest a number of traits associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Neither of these diagnoses came as a terrible shock, or at least they didn’t in retrospect, because I’d been showing the symptoms of both for my entire life. The bipolar really got hold of me in my teens, but I’d always been an odd child and, in a key developmental track, I’d been significantly behind: speaking. I can speak now (perhaps too much), but sometimes it’s difficult. More crucially, though, I have issues with social cues and behaviors and this has led more than once to me pissing people off when I had no intention of doing so. They assume malice and never stop to consider other causes.

Given that I have the Krazy Straw genes necessary for a couple of disorders, it should probably come as no surprise that my son has suffered. Unlike me, he is firmly on the autism spectrum and suffers the stigma and difficulties associated with that. He’s also, in recent years, become more volatile, which may be a precursor to a full-blown case of bipolar. A double whammy no one would wish on their worst enemy, and I have to stand by and watch it ravage my son every day.

There are some things that work sometimes with some sufferers of autism. There are behavioral therapies that can, if applied early enough and consistently enough, alleviate some of the worst maladaptive ways of the autistic child and adult. Sometimes drugs work, specifically antipsychotics, as these have a tendency to slow the brain down to allow more rational thought. Antipsychotics are most commonly used for people with Bipolar I or Bipolar II, so there’s an added benefit in my son’s case.

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The bitter box

NemoI don’t do a whole lot of what you’d call personal blogging on this site. I stick to reviews and discussions of my work and various bits and pieces of writing- or publishing-related trivia that some people seem to find interesting. Occasionally I’ll talk about my son. Today is one of those days.

You’ll recall my son turned thirteen in October. I know they always talk about how “they grow up so fast,” but I’m here to tell you that’s not an exaggeration. I honestly have no idea how we got from the sweet little boy we had to the raging, hormonal teenager who lives in our house now. It’s not a transition I hoped for or dreamed about and it’s not something I’d wish on anyone.

I mentioned last week that from the ages of about 23-39 I was a wild man on the internet. I picked fights with regularity, was rude and unforgiving even to people who were my friends, and was generally unpleasant in a way that causes me great shame today. You may wonder what’s changed between now and then, and I will tell you now, though I have never discussed it openly before: I have bipolar disorder.

Specifically I have Bipolar II, which is a less extreme manifestation of the illness. Not something to be trifled with, certainly, but I have never been so manic that I’ve seen things and heard voices, nor have I ever been so depressed that I needed radical therapies to get moving again. That said, I’ve been in some dark places and I’ve made a lot of poor decisions when manic. I was an entirely different person before I got treatment, and I hardly recognize the person I was then.

My son, as you well know by now, has autism. We knew from a fairly early age (about six) that his autism was also accompanied by bouts of aggression. This isn’t uncommon among autistic children and adults. It wasn’t until my son was nine that I knew the root cause of my own issues, and even then I had some difficulty putting two and two together. Bipolar had cost me so much during my lifetime, from good friends to family, that I refused to believe that my son, who was already laboring under a significant handicap, might have this problem, too.

It wasn’t too bad at first. Like I said, we knew aggression was an issue, and a dose of a specific medication seemed to curb most of that. As he grew older, he was diagnosed with ADHD — something else that’s very common among autistic children, sad to say — and got a couple more medications to help with that.

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