web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post


Life Lessons from Raising an Autistic Child (Part I)


Arnold-020113

As told to Gila Arnold

Autism. We’ve read about it. We’ve heard statistics: one in 88 children in the U.S. is born on the autistic spectrum. Even without knowing the hard facts, we sense that it is a growing phenomenon. After all, there seem to be more and more programs and specially-trained therapists devoted to working with this particular special-needs population. There is a good chance that we know someone who has a relative on the spectrum.

But unless we live with an autistic child, sharing in his life, day in and day out, we cannot begin to appreciate what it means to have a child with autism.

It was this thought that motivated the Goldberg* family to contact this writer; with the goal of giving the larger community an inside peek into this world.

Menachem, an eight-year-old, blue-eyed, adorable boy, was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder, or PDD, at the age of two. PDD refers to a group of disorders characterized by delays in the development of socialization and communication skills. The most common and well-known of these disorders is autism. While there is a wide range within this diagnosis, Menachem is at the lower end of the spectrum.

However, there is more to Menachem than meets the eye.

“He is not mentally retarded, just undeveloped,” says his father, Dan. “Although he is non-verbal, he can understand, problem-solve, he can manipulate us and his environment to get what he wants.”

And underneath, Dan is convinced, there exists the same deep desire for connecting with others that all of us have. More desperate, perhaps, because the desire is trapped inside a mind that doesn’t know how to reach out.

This series of articles will be Menachem’s story, the story he would want all of us to understand, were he able to tell it himself. It will be the story of his parents, siblings, and caretakers, with the goal of giving us insight into Menachem’s world.

But it will be more than that, because the story of raising a special needs child is really the story of raising any child, only magnified a thousand-fold. The patience, strength and determination required by the parent of an autistic child are traits all parents should be emulating. All of child-rearing is about finessing our own middos and reactions as much as it is shaping our children’s. But when the child is a low-functioning special-needs child, and the parents must learn to limit what they can reasonably expect of him – then their expectations of themselves must rise accordingly.

***

Part One –
The Father’s Story

It’s a clear, springy day, and I’m taking a walk around the block with Menachem. Since nothing with Menachem is ever simple, not getting dressed, eating meals or even using the bathroom, I know that at any moment the quiet father-son scene can be shattered. I hold his hand as I talk to him about things that I imagine will hold his interest. I can do no more than guess, since eight-year-old Menachem is non-verbal.

Without warning, Menachem wrenches his hand out of my grasp and runs off. He is having a meltdown, and I brace myself as I trot after him. With Menachem, situations go from zero to sixty within seconds. And, indeed, he runs off the curb and into the busy street next to my home, and proceeds to lay himself down right smack in the middle of the road.

It doesn’t take long for the first car to come barreling up the street and screech to a halt. Before long, there is a row of honking cars and angry drivers. I don’t need them to open their windows to know what they are shouting. Their accusing looks are all too familiar to me. What’s wrong with you? Why can’t you control your son?

Believe me, I wish I could shout back. If I knew how to control him, I would. Even better would be if I knew how to anticipate these episodes and be able to nip them in the bud. But I can’t, and I am just as lost in these circumstances as anyone. Menachem can’t be cajoled, reasoned with, or even threatened. Overly large for his age due to his medications, he is too heavy for me to simply lift off the street. And so all I can do is stand helplessly next to him in the street, as a portion of the agitation that has taken my son in its grip, takes hold of me as well.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Life Lessons from Raising an Autistic Child (Part I)”

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
Pro-Israel Group: Tell Chuck Schumer Not to Cave [video]
Latest Sections Stories

Anna Henriques, who hopes to one day head back to Jamaica, says, “Rabbi Raskin must be willing to respect what exists in Jamaica. The way to the future is to gently bring in the traditions of the past and at the same time embrace the idiosyncrasies of the Jamaican people.”

Food-Talk---Eller-logo

The Silver Platter has it all: gorgeous photography, oodles of useful tips and, more importantly, incredible recipes that you will find yourself making again and again.

Emmer-052915-History

It may be that seeking to connect with the past is rooted in the impermanence and impersonality of modern life.

It is very hard to build a healthy marriage when you do not have good role models.

My best book is one that hasn’t been published yet.

We tend to justify and idealize this division with pride attributing these tendencies as demonstrating a higher level of kedushah.

Everyone in the kehilla can get involved, she added, and mothers can network with each other.

On her first ever trip to Israel last week, popular radio talk-show personality and clinical psychologist Dr. Joy Browne, whose spirited broadcasts regularly attract millions of listeners across North America, paid a visit to OneFamily headquarters in Jerusalem in order to learn more about the physical and emotional challenges faced by victims of terror in […]

With the famous Touro Synagogue, a variety of mansions, each with its own distinct personality, as well as the beautiful coast, Rhode Island makes for an excellent vacation spot.

To avoid all this waste and unnecessary anxiety, let’s break the task down step by step and tackle each one at a time.

While there are those who insist they need full-color photos to be truly entranced by a recipe, I suggest you get over that particular requirement because the written word here will draw you in and cause you to salivate as you peruse the recipes scattered throughout The Well-Spiced Life (Israel Book Shop).

For those who couldn’t go off base, a personal parcel was priceless in its ability to convey a feeling of home.

With the danger of being discovered always a possibility, the partisans not only moved around in the forest, but also eliminated any collaborators.

More Articles from As told to Gila Arnold
Challenging-Parenting-logo

Because Menachem lives in Israel, he can feel the ruach in the air.

Challenging-Parenting-logo

Usually Menachem is very hungry when he gets home, and we have food prepared for him. Though logically, he should sit down happily and eat, when he is in such a hungry state logic flies out the window, and, out of frustration, Menachem will knock over and spill the food. So meal time with him involves a lot of cleaning and coaxing. And always, always, vigilance.

They say it takes a village to raise a child, but what happens when the village has no idea what to do with the child?

Sibling relationships are a world of their own. By nature complex, the intricate dynamic is thrown for a giant loop when a special-needs sibling enters the picture.

The uncle’s story:

When Menachem was a baby, he seemed like any other normally developing kid. Videos from that time show him laughing and reacting to other people; you’d never guess how he would turn out. I don’t know, maybe a professional might have seen the signs, but I certainly didn’t.

The father’s story: What’s your parenting philosophy? How do you feel about discipline? What educational approach do you find most compatible with the sum of yours and your child’s personalities?

Being a preschool teacher is a big responsibility, and believe me, I don’t take it lightly. For these two to three year olds, I’m the first teacher they’ll ever have. My primary concern, of course, is to provide them a safe environment for playing, but I also try to get in some teaching, in a way that’s appropriate for their age.

And underneath there exists the same deep desire for connecting with others that all of us have. More desperate, perhaps, because the desire is trapped inside a mind that doesn’t know how to reach out.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/challenging-parenting/life-lessons-from-raising-an-autistic-child/2013/02/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: