Finding Help and Hope With Autism
Adolescence was a good time for Paul. He seemed to relax and become
more social. He became more affectionate. When approached, he
would converse with people. For several months, drugs were used
to help him control his aggression, but they were stopped because
they caused unwanted side effects. Even so, he now rarely throws
or breaks things.
Two years ago, Paul's parents were able to take advantage of new scientific
understanding about autism, and they enrolled him in an innovative program
that provides full-time support, enabling him to live and work within
the community. Today, at age 20, he has a closely supervised job assembling
booklets for a publishing company. He lives in an attractive apartment
with another man who has autism and a residence supervisor. Paul loves
picnics and outings to the library to check out books and cassettes.
He also enjoys going home each week to visit his family. But he still
demands familiarity and order. As soon as he arrives home, he moves
every piece of furniture back to the location that is familiar to him.
The summer Alan was 6, after years with no apparent progress, his language
began to flow. Although he reversed the meaning of pronouns, he
began talking in sentences that other people could understand.
Now age 13, Alan has lost his constant obsession with lights, returning
to it only when he feels stressed. He often burrows under a heavy pile
of pillows, which seems to relax and comfort him. His fits of anger
occur less often, but because he is bigger, he reacts with more force.
Every now and then, he goes out of control, kicking, hitting, and biting.
Once, at a shopping mall, he threw a tantrum so severe that his mother
had to hold him down to control him.
At the same time, he has successfully made the transition to middle
school and he is learning more quickly than before. He seems more aware
of his surroundings and remembers people. He still doesn't play with
other children, but often sits watching them from a window. It's as
if he has become aware that he is different. He also seems more aware
of his own emotions and at times he says quietly, "You sad."
Today, at age 4, Janie is enrolled in an intensive program in which
she is trained at home by her mother and several specialists.
She is beginning to show real progress. She now makes eye contact
and has begun to talk. She can ask for things. As a result, she
seems happier, less frustrated, and better able to form connections
with others. She's also begun to show some remarkable skills.
She can stack blocks and match objects far beyond her years. And
her memory is amazing. Although her speech is often unclear, she
can recite and act out entire television programs. Her parents'
dream is that she will progress enough to enter a regular kindergarten
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