I was diagnosed as an autistic child at age 2. I did not talk until age 4. I had lots of childhood therapy, speech and play therapy. I had a supportive family and many family members helped me out. I did not have to endure a divorce or family tragedy. I made it to Kindergarten with my class, today I may have been held back a year.
I was told later in life that I cried during the night after being vaccinated at 6 months in 1962. I was given a double dose of vaccines given at age 6 months and 9 months at that time. The vaccines involved most likely in 1962 would have been DTP (Diptheria, Tetanus, Percussis) and IPV (Polio). The lesson is that babies should be vaccinated on the schedule, not double-vaccinated at one time. We hope that many decades later, the vaccines are safe - I am not trying to be anti-vaccine. I only have an oral history of what happened.
I found out that music could reach me easier than the spoken word. I liked "picture stories" about construction projects where I enjoyed the drawings more than the words. To fit in with my family, I learned to be read to by sitting still without actually listening and processing the stories, except maybe two or three children’s books. I enjoyed being outside, walking around in the woods. I visited my neighborhood, and farmland nearby where I played has condominiums.
My delayed speech, in hindsight, caused in part for me to miss part of the growing-up process as a baby, learning to smile, making faces, giving adults and other kids pleasure. I think a lot of life’s crucial skills are learned pre-school. I believe I am high-functioning autistic based on my knowledge of my babyhood.
Autistic Childhood Teaching:
Pets were not a major part of my life – I had two cats as a child – but I did not have pets to help me break out of autism.
Teaching autistic children is made easier if the child is receptive to learning. For example, if you want to teach an autistic child how to sit and behave at a dinner table - table manners - try to do it when the child is full, not hungry. Perhaps after breakfast in the morning when the child is more rested than in the evening, when they can be burned out by activities of the day. The parents have to be patient, and the child has to apply the same concentration learning about the planets to learn out to deal with others at a table, activities the autistic person does not like.
I first faced teasing in second and third grade – name calling. I don’ t remember how I got through it except through paitience – no question I could not react fast enough to name calling. I know now one has to ask the question and laugh, but young kids who don’t learn as a baby and are slower at making the response to the tease.
People have asked about how I have "fun". As a child, I enjoyed playing with my toy trucks in the sandbox and dirt pile along with walking around the yard and by the brook and water pipe. I was introduced to golf and had enough patience to learn that sport and I did some swimming. I liked listening to music and following baseball and the space missions, now I know a typical hobby for someone in the spectrum. In hindsight, I did some parallel play (side-by-side play) rather than interactive play, but I do recall a few nice acquaintances.
I remember certain song melodies from my childhood, and of course, I heard them on poor quality transistor radios 40 years ago, for example. It was more enjoyable as a kid to imagine the words, make up the words (I did not know language - my guess as good as reality), than to know the unhappy truth about the song, typically about a relationship going good or bad.
I learned to be a good student, but I had trouble with stuttering and eye contact in middle school. I had a good high school period, having some good friends, but the adjustment to college was challenging. Playing sports was hard – I was not as well coordinated as the average person. My coordination was cut off at the waist, so I could do some activities well if I could stand still (golf) but not while running (tennis), and I was picked nearly last to play on team pick-up games.
For the record, I was told I had no eye contact in 7th grade as I liked to look at the ceiling, not at other people while talking. It was reported that I talked like a deaf person. The lesson is that overcoming autism is a battle over time, with successes being small steps.
Recently, someone mentioned bad eye contact to me outside of work, so despite writing and thinking about the issue, I still cannot fully overcome the problem. I believe that the situation is grey, sometimes I can connect, sometimes I don't, depending of the person I am with and my state of mind. Practice can help some, but the limitation of information overload compared to the other person in the discussion. Eye contact - how much do you stare or look away or something else?