Starting School

Logan has such an effect on the people around him. He hops off the school bus and tiny voices can be heard from within calling out “Byeee Logan!” The bus driver has to get them all to sit back in their seats. Logan says goodbye to her too, with a wave.

I’m so happy that Logan is able to connect with others so easily just by being his own silly self. :) Only a few days before starting school he was given the results of an assessment completed over the summer. It turns out that he has Autism, registering on the mild/high-functioning side of the spectrum. Last week I met with a Social Worker as part of the process after diagnosis. She really put it into perspective for me how well he is doing despite a few developmental setbacks. He sleeps well, he’s adjusting well to full days at school, he has a happy disposition, loves people, and is fully toilet trained just like his buddies at school. His only major developmental setbacks are his ability to understand language/communication, and that he is prone to sensory overload as he doesn’t have that filter for extraneous sights, sounds, smells, etc. that most people have. The fact that he also exhibits a few of the self-stimulatory behaviours associated with autism is just kinda cute as he prances around on his tip-toes and jumps about like a baby bird flapping its wings when he’s really into something. :)

To give you an idea of what a diagnosis of mild autism entails, here is an overview of some of the bigger symptoms.

May move into the personal space of others, not recognizing body language, facial and verbal cues that he/she has transgressed
May not make direct eye contact
Lack of emotional reciprocity or empathy
Rigid and inflexible adherence to specific routines or rituals
Stereotyped and repetitive motor movements
Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects
Friends and new acquaintances may be acknowledged with tight and enthusiastic hugs instead of formal greetings like “Hi, how are you?”
May begin to talk about the latest topic of concern which is of interest only to themselves (e.g., train schedules), may be age inappropriate or boring but the person does not pick up on looks of disinterest or snickers from the group.
Speech and language peculiarities such as: stilted and formal language, voice too loud or monotone or hyperverbal.
Hypersensitivity to noises or smells
Cognitive abilities which are average or above average (They are often known as “little professors”)
Difficulties with subjects that require inferential reasoning, abstract concepts, problem solving, extensive calculations or social judgements.
Fine motor problems which lead to poor penmanship and low writing motivation
Gross motor clumsiness which leads to poor skills in competitive sports and physical activities
Depression, frequent school absences, low school motivation due to being socially vulnerable and easy targets for teasing and bullying

I’m so pleased that the resources are now available to help kids like Logan get through the academic and social aspects of their schooling without undo stress and damage to self-esteem. Both me and my husband struggled in these areas as children ourselves – all before these sort of developmental disorders were widely identified and discussed. Back then, unless you were extremely debilitated, you were expected to function and learn the same way as all your peers.

For me I found that there was a huge disconnect between the words that were spoken to me and my understanding of them. I was slow to respond or would freeze up altogether if I felt there was too much pressure; and I was very sensitive and anxious, just like Logan. However I could express thoughts, feelings, and ideas wonderfully in my writing. I found I understood more through written words too. In fact, years later I often skipped lectures at university because I could never retain the information as well as when I went through the course handouts in a quiet room at home with my textbook in hand, jotting down notes to commit it all to memory.

My husband’s struggles at school centred more around his social interactions. He had a hard time connecting with others, making friends. It was in junior high school that he made his first best friend for life. Which is why I am so defensive of my husband now when people get upset with him. I don’t think he deserves special treatment, but at the same time I think that people need to take into consideration that, like Logan, he is not choosing to go against the grain. We are not all cookie-cutter versions of each other. I honestly believe that people simply do not understand his way of processing things and so tend to get the wrong impression.

So, with our own childhoods in mind, it is definitely a relief to think that our dear Logan may not have to suffer through the same trials in his own life; that he could happily go out into the world as himself!

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