May 23, 2024
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  • 3:13 pm Muleshoe Art Association holds last meeting of the year

I introduced my grandson to his uncle’s black-and-white cat the other day.

“Your uncle calls her Oreo, but I call her Precious.”

“Oh, you mean like that guy in Lord of the Rings?” he said.

Atty, age 12, is a voracious reader and a watcher of videos, so his connection to Gollum and his “Precious,” shouldn’t have been surprising.

But Atty is also on the autism spectrum, so I may have a tendency to exaggerate every intellectual triumph.

When my daughter first started questioning whether Atty was developing normally, her family, including me, tended to think she was overreacting. Atty would learn to speak in his own sweet time.

But moms usually know best, and it was a good thing that my daughter and her husband took Atty for testing early.

The test results did, indeed, put him on the spectrum, and Atty was enrolled in a center specific to autism needs.

My daughter and son-in-law more or less resigned themselves to Atty’s being speechless.

Then, one day, he picked up a word, then another and another, until the two of them were nearly overwhelmed by his constant chatter and head-scratching questions.

However, Atty was still on the autism spectrum, and he has challenges in several areas.

Though he reads at or above grade level, he is limited when it comes to writing, even printing, by hand. He has some difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, although this is improving with speech therapy. He seems younger than he is, partly because he still clings to childhood toys like stuffed animals and tends to shout out whatever’s in his head.

He is sensitive to the smell, taste and texture of certain foods, so meal planning can be a challenge.

Atty likes things to happen at a certain time, and when they don’t, he becomes frustrated. For this, and for other reasons, he has meltdowns. At times the school has to call one his parents to come in and calm him down.

People sometimes wonder whether corporal discipline is the answer. It is not. Corporal discipline makes a meltdown worse.

Most Saturday afternoons, Atty comes over to visit Grandma and Grandpa. He plays video games with Dave, often taking on the role of instructor.

“Grandpa, I would recommend that you …”

With me, Atty plays board games. He understands the rules of games, but chooses to ignore them, turning the game, whether it be Clue, Risk or chess, into a drama that frequently involves toy soldiers, tanks, airplanes and lots of battle noises.

Atty sits or lies on the floor, I sit on a low stool, and the two of us move pieces and spout nonsense until it’s time for him to go home.

Somewhere between the apartment door and the car, he says, “I love you guys.”

We love him too.

April was Autism Acceptance Month. My advice for young parents is this:

If you have any reason to suspect that your child is developmentally delayed, don’t hesitate, and don’t listen to well-meaning relatives.

Have your child tested. The younger, the better.

Gail M. Williams

Muleshoe Journal Columnist

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