Children are unique with each having their own character traits. Children with special needs can sometimes be clumped together, based on their diagnoses. I would say sometimes correctly so, as certain groups of special needs children will have very similar traits, however I do admit that this could be my bias and this is based on my experience as an outsider of other special needs groups. My experience is with autism and yes children with autism all get clumped together when it comes to the diagnosis and even sometimes the recommended treatment, yet the causes, symptoms, manifestations, behavioural issues, cognitive ability and treatment protocols vary drastically. As pointed out in the article, “The vast spectrum”, autism is a diverse and complex disorder with no best-case practices applied across the board.
Autism is inconsistent from case-to-case but I also find that even with my son, he is so very inconsistent. We never really know what we are going to get from day-to-day. I don’t know many parents who have children on the autistic spectrum, who experience the same inconsistencies as we do. I am however sure that he is not the only anomaly.
Our son varies from day-to-day, hour-to-hour and even minute-to-minute. We never know what to expect, which makes parenting and education even more of a challenge. For example he sometimes speaks so coherently and beautifully and at other times he can suffer from terrible non-fluency. His thinking can be so clear and lucid and at other times he is so unclear and even irrational. Socially he is so approachable and personable, yet at times he suffers socially and is inept. His schoolwork can be done so carefully, with thought and patience or at times rushed and messy with no interest. There are the things he can do and the things he cannot do and there are the things he will not do. Unfortunately we never know which it will be. Then of course there are the behaviour issues. He can be an angel and even a terror, good and outright naughty (yes he has the ability to be naughty). His behaviour is also so inconsistent and vacillates constantly. His behaviour not only affects his disposition but also his ability to learn. If he is in a mood at school he does not learn at all. His inconsistent behaviour also unfortunately affects our ability to do many things as a family. Certain outings such as movies, theatres and restaurants are a real challenge. He can be so happy and calm and cooperative and then suddenly so sad and moody and angry. Medication has helped to date, but it has by no means helped extensively. The one thing he is consistent in, is his inconsistency.
We are unsure why he is so inconsistent. Did he not sleep enough or did he sleep too much, did he not eat enough or did he eat too much, has he got stomach ache, is he anxious, is he down, is he sad, is he sensory overloaded, is he hot, is he cold. The list is endless and if we think we have found the cause this time it will not be the same next time. Even though he is a child who is verbal, he himself does not know what is wrong or bothering him and cannot express this in words. For now it just seems that this inconsistency is his own unique set of symptoms that comes with his autistic spectrum diagnosis. Seeing his “good side” and all he can achieve, his glimmer of potential, his sparks of genius is amazing and keeps our hopes alive that this can one day become more consistent and less fleeting. Our focus is on unlocking the inconsistencies and making him more consistent, especially in his strongest areas.
For many parents in the battle with autism, this is the one area we all experience consistently, the ability to unlock our children’s potential no matter what it may be.