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Nov 8 2013

Friday Night: What Does “I Want Shabbat” Mean in Autism Speak?

By at 11:47 am

cut slices of challah

“I want Shabbat,” my son Benjamin proclaimed on a recent Saturday afternoon as the guests we’d invited over for lunch milled about the house. I looked up from the salad I was throwing together, certain I’d misunderstood him. Shabbat is something we do every week in our house, yet something Benjamin, now 10 years old, had never once acknowledged. But then he said it again.

Benjamin has autism, and with his variation of the disorder comes serious language impairments that make it insanely difficult for him to do something that most of us take for granted; to identify the thoughts he wants to express, find the corresponding words, and then actually put those words out into the world. Communicating is an Everest-scaling level challenge for him, and because of that, Benjamin has become quite adept at paring it down to the basics.

And we, in turn, have become quite adept at interpreting the collection of compact lines he has curated over the years in order to get his needs met. More difficult is decoding the subtext, although we have become increasingly skilled at that part, too. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 11 2013

Why I Wouldn’t Let My Son be Labeled Special Needs

By at 2:37 pm

kindergarten boy with crayonMy oldest son didn’t really talk until he was almost 3. He said a couple of words, like “ite” for “light” and the requisite “Mama” and “Dada,” but he didn’t string them together into sentences, which he should have been doing by then. He also didn’t point at things. He just went and got what he needed himself. (I thought it was a good thing, honestly.)

He had an abnormally large head (it was literally off the charts when the doctor tracked it), and he could stand for up to 20 minutes at a time, just watching a leaf blow in the wind. Based on all of the above–and from 5,000 miles away in California, mind you–my mother diagnosed him as autistic. I brushed it off. But, then, our pediatrician suggested we get him checked out, too. Read the rest of this entry →

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