by Jos Haring
My daughter Jasmijn (10) has a mild form of autism called ppd-nos (Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specified). It is this kind of ASD that many people seem to get away with - meaning their symptoms are neglected, ignored or underrated. Precisely because this type of ASD is very often overlooked (whereas it seems to be the most common type of ASD), it is more interesting in my opinion, than the "traditional" and more serious forms of autism.
PDD-NOS manifests itself in a number of ways:
- Problems with social interaction
- Egocentric behaviour
- Empathy problems
- Problems with unexpected events happening
Jasmijn shows all of these and has developed in a remarkably positive way. Because of her limited ability to place herself in someone else's position, she had a hard time understanding what was going on socially, especially at school. We have stimulated her to speak up for her self and to give off understandable signals if she feels she cannot handle certain complex situations, where she needs to withdraw. The children at school understand this now and she has become very sociable kid. She has a couple of very good friends who are familiar with her sometimes aberrant behaviour and accept it.
Egocentric behaviour is something she -and the rest of her world- seems to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Hopefully it diminishes with time, but currently she can be jealous for virtually no reason - even though she is fully aware that she is. She will always see to it that she gets the most, the best, or be first. Our 'remedy' is to point out to her what she is doing and making it clear to her what the results are of her behaviour.
Empathy is of course directly correlated to social interaction. Jasmijn is now of an age where she is conscious of the usefulness of empathy. And although it is not part of her, so to speak, she works very hard to make it a part of her, even though it doesn't come naturally. But then, as all new forms of behaviour, over time she'll get used to it and it will become more natural. Currently, we admire her attempts, even though they sometimes make us smile - for example when she says things like "you're the sweetest mommy/daddy in the world" in a tone that would disqualify her at any theatre audition ;-) Interesting though it is. She does actually feel it that way, but it's communicating it to the outside world that seems to be the problem.
This is something books could be written about! Whereas every kid would shout with joy if I would come into the room and say "OK kids, let's go - we're going to the zoo, pack your things and we'll be off", Jasmijn will just explode. She cannot handle that sort of fast transitions from one situation to the other. The same thing with sending the kids to bed: the same thing will happen. The remedy is very simple here: a 5-minute warning. If I say to her "It's bedtime in 10 minutes", followed by "It's bedtime in 5 minutes", she won't have any problem if the actual moment finally arrives.
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