Facing My Own Autism Traits – Do parents have autism traits which are milder then their children?
One of the things that an autism parent learns a lot about are the symptoms of autism. In the beginning some of us may even become obsessive. Observing our children’s every move. Constantly asking ourselves is that autism or is that typical developmental behaviour? Eventually as we all come to terms with the diagnosis and what this means many of us move into another stage of, what can we do? What therapies are best? How can we get him to talk? The list goes on and on. Enter the research driven phase of accepting the diagnosis. During this phase we run into a lot of research which reveal little inklings of what may cause autism. I am still in this phase I guess you can say. I research a lot, not because I want to change my son or remove his autism but because I want to know everything that is going on in the field. I want to know what therapies are out there and what these therapies have shown in terms of results. I am also still in this phase 2 years later because I have a very obsessive and driven personality.
This week I cam across the following article which made me look at myself and at my husband as part of the pieces of the little puzzle that makes up my son’s autism.
“…here are at least four tools scientists use to pinpoint and measure autistic traits in family members, including the 2001 questionnaire, which is called the Autism Spectrum Quotient.
Originally used to identify people on the autism spectrum, the questionnaire lists 50 questions covering five areas: communication, attention to detail, social skills, attention switching and imagination. Researchers first used the questionnaire to distinguish BAP parents from controls in 2004.
In the June study, published in Molecular Autism,and his team asked 2,000 parents of children on the autism spectrum and 1,007 parents of healthy children to fill out the questionnaire. As expected, parents of the diagnosed children scored higher, meaning they have greater numbers of traits associated with autism than do controls.
Baron-Cohen’s group also found that 23 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers of children with autism spectrum disorders meet or exceed the BAP cut-off. These parents can be grouped into two new categories — the medium or the narrow phenotype, the latter of which is closest to autism — the researchers say.”
My husband and I sometimes make jokes that he lies somewhere on the spectrum himself. He’s not very social, when he likes something he obsesses about it constantly, is a self taught guitar player who plays amazingly well, he is a visual learner, and has only a few real friends. He hates social gatherings with a passion and has trouble connecting with people if there is no common interest. He did not however have delayed speech or gross motor impairments as a child and although his mother said he was a colicky baby he was a pleasant child with typical development and mild tantrums. Here is a taste of his talent and one of my favorite songs he has created. This is a tribute piece to the late Shawn Lane, his picture is in the video.
Now lets turn to myself. It was easy for me to look at the hubby even from the beginning and pick out his own autism traits but I honestly never took the time to even think that I myself may have many of those features other then some anxiety and OCD behaviours. After reading the article I decided to take a moment and think about what traits I carry. It was a little shocking actually and something I may need to look into further but here we go.
As a child my parents said I started to speak late and did not speak until I was 3 years old. I was learning 2 languages at the same time but I have known many young children who can speak both french and english fluently by age 4 as children that young tend to more easily absorb language. The Monkey did not learn how to speak until he was 3.5 so in that sense we were the same developmentally. I eventually went on to take speech therapy until the age of 7. With my speech delay I also had some gross motor impairments and although I did walk on time I had to be taught how to jump and was only truly able to do this at age 6. The Monkey just learnt how to jump this year at age 5.5. He also had to be taught how to do this as it is not something that came naturally to him. My parents also indicate I used to throw some pretty intense meltdowns. They used to have to physically restrain me until I calmed down or I would become quite violent. This of course I don’t remember, however I do believe them because as I got older when I would get angry I would run to my room throw things and bang my arm son the closest hard surface I could find as hard as I could to feel something other then what I was feeling inside. I have learnt to control my emotions much more as I get older but up until the Monkey was born I still reverted to this sort of behaviour when extremely upset.
In school I was sort of social but not overly. I kept to myself a lot and had a handful of friends that I lost touch with as we moved from place to place. I always figured this as being the product of being raised in a military family as we did move a few times. Now however I wonder if that is truly the reason. Some people find it hard to connect with me as I don’t generally go out of my way to talk to people, I can sometimes come off as cold, and I always say it how it is. Meaning if you don’t want to truly know how that shirt looks then do not ask me as I will honestly tell you it looks horrible if it does. At work this has meant that I have been told I lack tact when asking colleges questions or when telling them about a mistake. I don’t mean to come off that way but it is what it is. I do have a lot of social anxiety issues which I have been able to cope with much more as I get older but as a child and teenager I always thought people were judging me or felt like people were watching me. School assemblies were a nightmare and eventually I found a way to get out of going to them entirely. I do not like being the center of attention and so in school I rarely ever raised my hand or sat in the front of the class except for classes that I liked and excelled at like environmental science, law and art. I went through a depression in high school stemming from all my fears, anxieties etc… and my doctors put me on a mild antidepressant for awhile which helped a bit. University was challenging for me. I made a few friends but I had a hard time going to class. Classes are much larger then high school and there are so many people everywhere that I would often have panic attacks in my car or as I walked to my classes yet I pushed myself and I went. In the end I ended up on a mild antidepressant again for a few years not because I was depressed but because of my anxiety.
I have a photographic memory and generally only need to read something once or be shown something once to remember it especially if it is something I am interested in. I can recall events and conversation in my mind as if I was standing there again right now. I could tell you what you were wearing, how you were standing, what you said it’s pretty crazy. In school, even when I rarely went, I would read the chapters for a test the night before once and generally did very well on the test. I even got a scholarship to help pay for my first year of university based on my grades even when my attendance that year was lacking. When I recall memories or things I have seen it’s like watching a little movie in my head. I am also a perfectionist in pretty much everything I do and will redo something or rewrite something till it is just right. I constantly write down plans, and to do lists etc.. to help keep me on track.
Now on to my own very real sensory issues that i never really thought about until now. I need to be constantly in motion. Standing in line for example at a store the other day my friend made me very aware of the fact that I rock side to side as I wait instead of standing still like everyone else in line with us.When sitting at a chair I usually will kick my leg back and forth or tap my feet. When driving I hold the wheel with one hand and I tend to rub the shifter nob with the other when I drove standard, now I tend to rub my thigh instead. When sitting on the couch I move my foot in circles rubbing the couch something I noticed the other day that the Monkey does as well. I have always had issues with loud noises and bright lights hurt my eyes not as much as they do for the Monkey but I remember a time when I used to always wear sunglasses outside because it would hurt so bad it would give me headaches. My parents and the hubby often say I am speaking to quietly for them to hear when I feel like I am already speaking normal or even loudly. As a child I used to analyse my food a lot before eating and would usually wait for someone else to try something before eating any of it myself. I have always hated tags in my clothing and find them very scratchy. I can not fall asleep at night if anything other then the blankets are touching me which means no nighttime cuddles for the hubby.
Lastly, although I am sure there is probably more, I have to remind myself to look at people when I am talking to them. When they are speaking to me I have really great, average eye contact but when it is my turn to talk I do tend to look away from peoples faces when I talk to them. I have always known I had to consciously remind myself to look at people when I talk I just never associated it to anything and I never realized that most people do not need to tell themselves to look at people when speaking to them.
When I read all these things now it truly is eye opening but I think because I have these traits as well I am better adapted to understanding why the Monkey can not do certain things or how to teach him something in a way that he can learn it. I understand the anxiety and how it feels. I can also dissect a room and tell you every possible trigger upon just looking at it because these things stand out to me if not make me a bit anxious as well. I don’t think I am on the spectrum but I do know that I am a milder version of my son and being aware of our similarities sort of gives me comfort in knowing he’ll do just fine as he gets older if we attack these things head on now. If we can calm the anxiety then he can better learn to calm himself when sensory triggers are present as the sensory issues trigger the anxiety.
This was me dissecting myself and putting pieces together that I never would have thought of before. It was an experience that is for sure. So to you all I ask have you ever sat down and evaluated your own traits? Do you do many of the things that your child does only much more mildly?
Have a great day!