Thursday, September 11, 2014

Gifted with Autism

I wanted to take some time here to address something that I haven't had the words to address, but after much time to think about things I feel ready. When I first announced that Selena had some problems, issues, quirks, the Autism word, I received many comments of "Poor Girl" "Why?" "Treatment Options." Many began to see Selena in a different light, feeling sorry for her, hoping her the best, hoping something would help, my inbox was swamped with questions of what now?

This diagnosis of Autism has in no way changed a thing for Selena, not one bit, it is just another piece of the puzzle of who she is. Is she Gifted or is she Autistic? The answer to that question is that she is both, yes, Autistic is not a disability that affects their learning, but it does bring about behaviors or quirks that left untreated can affect learning. What?

The best way I know how to answer this is to break it down. A true gifted child is one who comes by something naturally. For Selena it was reading and the passion for words. By the time she started talking she was using words far beyond her peers. She absorbed the English language. By age 1 she was looking at other 1 year olds, and realizing "I am different." She would surround herself with 5 year olds who had more of the same vocabulary as she did. By age 2 her language skills just continued to advance, but also her knowledge of the world around her began to explode. She knew more about things like plants, dinosaurs, and the English language then even adults knew. She had what such a deep passion for learning something new everyday, far beyond what most 2 year olds have. Play for her was more about what can I learn today then how much fun can I have. At age 3 she picked up her first book and read it to me front to cover, word for word, and she hadn't even had a single reading or phonic lesson. She chose books from the library that she could read independently. Her thirst for learning had us sitting down by 3 1/2 years old and giving her what her mind wanted, more learning. She needed that part of her brain fed, quenched, just like we need to eat or drink.

Talk to any parent raising a true gifted child, and they will all tell you about quirks, sensitivities, OCD, ADHD, anxieties, the list goes on and on. So what causes a lot of children to fall into the Spectrum? Well, the answer is so easy, it depends on the intensity of these sensitivities or quirks. Selena falls in the Spectrum of Autism because her anxieties were taking up much of her life, it affected everything from what we could read, to what she could allow herself to eat. Anxiety itself was beginning to interfere with her ability to learn.

We tried Occupational Therapy to be told that she truly was not a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, so there was not much they could help her with. We tried psychologists, but Selena would process the information differently and out think the therapist, until the therapist just did not know how to direct us to help her. We tried dietary changes, but her OCD would not allow her to eat the foods we wished her to try. Because everything was so intense for her, the diagnosis of PDD NOS was made. We chose in order to help her have a better quality of life, to medicate her. We tried several small doses of different medications until we found the right ones for her. Now her anxieties are in check, sure she still gets anxious and has her fears, but they no longer control her. She has increased her diet and will eat or at least try everything I fix and put in front of her. There are still things that she can not bring herself to do, such as read Little House on the Prairie books, as they talk about dirt floors, living in wagons, and camping on the banks of a creek. She still can not go inside the barn, and still has problems getting dirty. These things make her who she is, these are her quirks.

Back to my title: "Is Selena gifted?" Yes, very much so! "Is Selena Autistic?" Yes, very much so! Does she have a good quality of life? You bet she does. While maybe she still struggles in group activities, in no way means she doesn't have friends, doesn't run and play, it just means she is more selective to how she obtains these friendships and fulfills the need for others in her life. Truly it is no different then a person who doesn't like crowds. She handles then when necessary but it is not something she prefers to do on a daily basis.

Will she go to the extreme to educate someone on something she knows, you bet she will. Just a week ago she educated one of my Doctors all about haboobs. It wasn't long before they were kind of arguing the origin of the word. Selena grabbed my phone, looked the word up, and proved that she was 100% correct it's origin was from the Arabic Language. Of course he got an education of what a haboob is, and how it occurs. If you are feeling lost you can check out what a habood is here. Selena still has a passion to learn, she does see the world differently then her peers, but she is no different then any other child, she still plays, laughs, and enjoys the simple things.
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  1. She sounds a lot like my Katie only her gifts are artistic and creative rather than words. Katie has friends but she doesn't make them as easily as her peers.
    Alex, on the other hand, although almost mute, also learned how to read by himself, and to spell way beyond his peers....about sixth grade and up words when he was three years old. It is where the savant skills come in.

  2. I think Selena is extremely blessed to have you, and you will parent her wonderfully no matter where and how things go.