Today is a Tuesday, so as usual you get a couple of reviews. But today is not an ordinary Tuesday, and that’s what I’d like to discuss with you now. Today is World Autism Awareness Day.
If you’ve read Tequila Sunset, you know about the character of Freddie Salas. Freddie is a ten-year-old boy with autism whose mother works as a police detective. Freddie is verbal, but he has impulsivity and temper issues, plus he keeps a fairly regimented pattern of behaviors that, if disrupted, causes him great distress. Those of you who’ve read my blog for any length of time know that Freddie is essentially my son. On the blog we call him Nemo, though that is not his real name.
We first learned that our son was autistic in 2003. He seemed to be developing normally in all respects save one: he was essentially nonverbal. Oh, sure, he could speak a handful of words, but he should have had a vocabulary of a few dozen words by that age. He understood them well enough, which was good, but his speech was a mess. We took him for an evaluation, thinking that he might need speech therapy. We learned far more.
It took a while for the actual diagnosis of autism to come down. He was seven before they would say without reservation that he was autistic. Even then they continued to say that he had Asperger Syndrome, which is a kind of high-functioning autism due to be folded into an overarching diagnosis called Autism Spectrum Disorder. He had been in special education from pre-K onward, receiving various therapies related to his disabilities, which grew in number the older he became. Obsessive behavior was the first after his speech issues, and thankfully he did not develop major problems with his motor skills, though his fine motor abilities were eventually, and continue to be, affected.