Ok. As the mother of a 19 year old with high functioning autism, here is my reply:
Autism is an actual neurological disorder. It has very specific symptoms that involve communication and social skills.It’s developmental. Sometimes you can tell from birth, but usually they meet their early milestones and seem like bright, healthy babies, but then they lose ground sometime before they are 3. Here’s how it came about in my son.
Birth to 2: almost 8 pounds, 21 inches, normal, met all of infant and many toddler milestones. Actually really outgoing and happy. Paid a lot of attention to people. If someone accomplished something, he would laugh and say, “You did it!” Hilarious, outgoing kid. My husband and I are both tall, so his physical growth was off the charts.
Age 2-3: Started withdrawing. No interest whatsoever in toilet training. Screamed and banged his head. Pediatrician just said I wasn’t disciplining him properly. Daycare talked to us about his “violent tendencies” and said they were “frightened he would hurt the baby” (I was pregnant with his sister). Constant calls from daycare. I read every toddler care and discipline book I can locate, and nothing really helps. Finally daycare calls CPS, who signs us up for “voluntary” parenting services with a goal of “helping D demonstrate positive feelings about himself, as his mother has failed to bond with him.”
Mother becomes hormonal basket case wondering if she is completely bat shit nutso and a terrible parent in spite of her efforts and deep love for her son.
3-6 Some things get better; school is still hard. At home, we let D explore his own ideas and have a lot of free reign, and he actually is able to discern that some things are ok at home that are not ok at school. He is a fabulous older brother, and imaginative, saying, “Kiki! Let’s be pirates!” Sister, for her part, loves to watch what he is doing with Legos, dinosaurs and the other things he is obsessed with. While his kindergarten teacher nearly pops an artery by the end of the year, his first grade teacher sees his brightness and potential.
Age 7 – the end of first grade. He has been seeing a child psychiatrist for 3 years and after miserably failed trials on different ADHD meds, he is diagnosed with high functioning autism. This changes everything and also helps everything.
Age 8-13 — up years and down years in school. Incidents include emotional outbursts, not doing his work, drawing all the time (he is now obsessed with his art work and comics) and while some teachers are concerned that other children are withdrawing from him, we manage to convince him, that being autistic, he doesn’t care that much. It’s not an attractive trait, but it is true. He still hugs us and loves others. He is reasonably successful in Boy Scouts and goes to one of the major scout camps called Many Points. No one feels ambivalent about D — they love him or they don’t like him at all.
Age 14-18 High school is hard and the principal is a douche. D’s behavior and interest in schoolwork are not great, but it’s not like he causes that many issues. He is in special education. The school never quite understands that D does not need help understanding the content areas of his school work. If he needs an aide in class, it’s to keep him on task. You might think that if he was just a little less “Lazy” or more self disciplined, that he wouldn’t need help with that either, as he is a bright boy. You would be wrong. He goes to a youth camp and pisses off his whole group by tipping their canoe. Yet, they give him some understanding. He’s a fairly typical teen, but he doesn’t date, go to activities, or work, or really have more than one friend — another autistic boy who is content to not socialize with him either.
His high school years are capped off with an art show/graduation party in which he shows over 100 works of digital art and dozens of ceramic and pewter sculpture projects. He is admitted to art school locally and still lives at home.
19 — his lack of interest in his hygiene and general lack of motivation will hold him back, but he would LOVE to move out of the house, so he is cooperating with Voc Rehab and learning to work, etc. He has actually had two paid “internships” in janitorial work and maintenance and his supervisors found his work and attention to detail impeccable, his personality pretty cool, and his hygiene to be desired. He has never dated. He hangs with his brother and sister and does not really have any pals of his own.