I have to add that “Horse Boy” is kind of out there in spots (the family goes for shamanic healing in Mongolia), but it’s a great depiction of a family. One of the things I got from the documentary is the power of doing “something” (what exactly is not that important) and of providing autistic children with new experiences. Our family has gotten a lot out of sending our daughter to therapeutic riding. The ranch we go to provides some need-based scholarship.
The great thing about therapeutic riding for an autistic girl is that it provides a gender-appropriate interest. What could be more normal than a girl who can’t shut up about horses?
Temple Grandin’s Emergence is a book about her early years and I’ve picked up a number of pointers from the book about what school environments worked best for her (all else being equal, small is better). She only started speaking at 4, as I recall.
The Temple Grandin HBO movie pays attention both to Grandin’s disabilities and unusual abilities (her spatial abilities and her affinity for animals). I recommend it very highly for sharing with family.
Autism the Musical is about a group of autistic children of vastly different levels of functioning who are putting on a musical. As I recall, the filmmakers do a bunch of interviews with the children. It gives a very good sense of what different levels of autism look like in children in real life.
I’m starting to watch Parenthood, which has a highly-applauded autism subplot. It has a lot of “adult themes”, so it’s not appropriate for all audiences, but I know many parents of autistic children really appreciate the show. I haven’t seen enough episodes to judge for myself, but it’s another potential jumping off point.
Praying for you, gamaellen. I am the mother of a nine-year-old boy with autism, and I have relatives who “get it” and relatives who don’t. I have coped with the situation by minimizing the amount of time we spend with those who don’t understand.
Having arguments about this in front of the children should be forbidden, in no uncertain terms.
I second the recommendation of watching the Temple Grandin movie HBO did recently. Showing it to the relatives who are causing the trouble might help.
“I am the mother of a nine-year-old boy with autism, and I have relatives who “get it” and relatives who don’t. I have coped with the situation by minimizing the amount of time we spend with those who don’t understand.”
We live far away from family, so we’ve talked about it frankly with my sister and my MIL (who is a psychologist) and kind of tangentially with my dad (who has gotten to be a Temple Grandin fan–he’s a cattle rancher, so he appreciates her insight into bovine psychology), but not with other relatives. At this point, our daughter (a 6th grader now) is remediated enough that it isn’t really going to come up on short visits, but if we saw each other all the time, I’m sure it would have been more of a problem, particularly during the difficult 1st and 2nd grade years. I may have vaguely alluded to our daughter’s issues at some point to my mom, and she said something to the effect that I’d been exactly like that as a child. Well, duh–it’s largely genetic. (I didn’t say that!)
There’s a thread here on the problem of family and denial with regard to autism:
"I have confided in my family with my concerns, and they think I am overreacting. They keep telling me that he is just spoilt, and he needs better discipline. He gets time out when he acts out, or is throwing tantrums. They think that I need to spank him, and have even said that he needs to “fear me”.
"They are never around, and NEVER help, or offer to watch him for a break. Obviously, knowing how they feel about his behaviour issues, I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving him with them.
“It is just upsetting because I feel like they don’t understand what happens each day, and they don’t realize that he is not a standard three year old.”
I feel like the OP’s granddaughter and the parents are very fortunate that the OP is accepting of the diagnosis.
I have two boys diagnosed with ADHD, and would be diagnosed with autism had we said the word. (The specialist believes they are on the spectrum; other teachers said the diagnosis will negatively impact their future, and they’ll get the same help in school under another label.)
It’s a safe bet my parents and siblings think they know better than me, the parent, or than the boys’ doctors, teachers, and the autism specialist. I’m getting some attitude from my older kids, who continue to expose themselves to my parents’ and siblings’ attitude. As a result, they feel free to drop their hints to me about how I should be a better parent, and they’re too harsh with these younger boys.
From my perspective, ‘not participating’ is taking sides. Silence always benefits the aggressor.
I would give just about anything for someone, anyone, in my extended family, to finally open their mouths and stand up for me, support me, do anything to let those running the rumor mill know that someone is sick to death of hearing the accusations and gossip, and is going to stand up and object.
Because I can guarantee you having a bunch of people who ‘know better’ and talk among themselves about my kids and their behavior and how I don’t actually know how to parent is the very worst part of having children with autism. And their words and the way they sway people’s beliefs is having a real impact on my family, even though I stay as far from them as I can and keep my younger kids away from them.
“From my perspective, ‘not participating’ is taking sides. Silence always benefits the aggressor.”
If the OP is hosting, she can police 1) the content of general conversation (i.e. we’re not going to talk about the kids in front of the kids) and 2) the tone of it (no yelling). That is being neutral, but it’s “good” neutrality.
Just doing that would make family get-togethers way more enjoyable for everybody. Any controversial stuff can happen (if it has to happen) away from the kids or by email.
Holyrood, I am so sorry this is happening to you and your sons. Is there anyone in the family who is on “your side,” who would be willing to defend you when this comes up? One of my sisters (the one who doesn’t understand) kept talking about me and my son behind my back to our mother, who finally put her in her place one day. She has been our biggest advocate all along. I’m sure my sister still harbors these negative feelings, but she at least keeps them to herself now.
I’ll say a prayer for you. Autism is a difficult condition for anyone to cope with, made even more difficult when you are constantly second-guessed by those around you.
Thank you for your insightful posts. I do agree that the negative behavior can not be allowed to continue… Our family is getting together again this next weekend. When the arguing begins I am going to tell those who are the offenders that it is best they keep their opinions to themselves and that I will no longer allow the children to be around them if it continues. It is difficult to cut someone off that you love but these children are the most important thing in the world to me and I know it is the right thing to do. Thank you all for your support. May God bless you and your families.:blessyou::
I’m happy you’ve found a workable solution. May God bless you and your family as well.
This is a decades-old mess of an alcoholic family. No, my siblings have all been well taught. I just stay away from them. But I can’t keep my older kids away. They’re legal adults.
PRAYERS OF FR. JOSEPH MARY WOLFE, MFVA
FOR THOSE WITH AUTISM
Our Father in Heaven, we worship You our Creator Who has given us the dignity of being Your sons and daughters! We pray for those with autism. Turn the challenges they face into great good for their souls and those of their families. Help each one of them to make progress each day in their physical and mental abilities and in their union with You. Bless them, O Lord, with help from on High, out of the abundance of Your mercy. We ask this through Christ Your Son. Amen.
FOR THOSE WITH AUTISTIC CHILDREN
Heavenly Father, we adore You, the Father of us all! We ask You to assist those families with an autistic child. Give these parents and grandparents wisdom and angelic help in their care for these children. Help the child’s siblings to be patient and to grow in self-giving love. Grant these families Your special support and give them friends who understand and love them. Most merciful Father, give light to scientists and doctors so that they may find the solution to autism. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Autistic children are close to my heart. Praying for your granddaughter.