Monday, November 30, 2009

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The other night Addy and I are watching a program on HGTV. Designers were helping families in the military.

The mother of one family said to the interviewer: “We spend all our time in the den. We play games, watch TV and oh, we use it constantly for therapy sessions. I have two autistic children.”

Addy took note. “What’s autistic mean?”

I explained as best I could. “It’s a neurological disorder.”

From my own experience of observing children diagnosed with autism, I added, “They can be overly sensitive to the physical world. They’re often agitated by anything they perceive through their senses—hearing, seeing, touching, smelling. Some autistic people might make habitual body motions, rocking, for example, or have attachment to certain objects. They prefer routine and get upset when the routine is disrupted.”

That very same week, Addy and I talked to a college student who helped an autistic child. The conversation reminded me of the article I had written about Kim Hix and her 10-year-old son who was diagnosed with a neuropsychiatric disability. We dug up that article for Addy to read. Then I showed her my latest blog post featuring Chynna Laird and her daughter Jamie.

Statistics indicate many families are raising children with disabilities. According to the American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry between 7 to 12 million children suffer from behavioral, mental or developmental disorders, and these numbers don’t reflect physical disabilities or other maladies. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), like Autism, Aspergers and ADHD, affect an estimated two to six per 1,000 children.

At the age of two, Jamie was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
Chynna said, “Honestly, I’d never heard of SPD. I’d heard of Autism, Asperger’s and ADHD but not this mysterious SPD.”

Chynna described her symptoms. “She rarely slept, fought us with every simple hygiene task tooth and nail, spent most of her awake time screaming and refused our touch.” Jamie’s mother said it was difficult to take her places, “Anywhere too busy, loud, smelly, bright, etc. made her break down or freeze.”

Chynna explained, “A lot of people call SPD an ‘invisible disorder’ because you can’t see it on a child’s face or body. The only glimmer that something is wrong is their reactions to people, situations, and events and that they often have to try just a bit harder to bounce a ball, play sports like stick hockey or ice skate or concentrate.”

Chynna Laird wrote I’m Not Weird, I have SPD to help others who are experiencing similar challenges. That was why Kim Hix wrote No One Is Perfect and You Are a Great Kid.

Besides the stories of Chynna and Kim, there are many resources available including associations and foundations that provide information and support to people and families. I found a long list simply by searching Google. One source is Children with Disabilities. Another resource is The National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities. Forever Families also offers information and resources for families.

Although their stories aren’t quite the same, Chynna and Kim faced their challenges in a similar matter. Both were proactive, searching for answers that made sense. The women deliver a powerful message. Chynna told me: “Jaimie is my sensational child—my miracle girl.”

Kim said something in her original article that I think bears repeating. “It is my hope that other children realize that despite any disabilities they may have that they too possess strengths and gifts. A disability does not make a person, it is simply a part of who he or she is.”

Allyn Evans
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