“As you have done it unto the least of my brethren, ye have done it unto me”. Matthew 25:40
I am speaking of the autism spectrum and ASD. I am speaking from the lower end of the spectrum because that has been my vantage point for the last 39 years. My son Pervis Jr is on the lower end and we have not been able to elevate him. He still cannot read, write or speak and cannot live independently. He has come a long way from the aggressive person that he used to be, but he still has deficits.
I feel compelled to write about this because of stories that Dr, Phil did on Sept 14 and 15 about two parents with aggressive children on the lower end of the spectrum. One parent wanted to kill herself and her child and the other actually tried and is now in prison. She does not belong in prison and I am glad that Dr. Phil is trying to help her. I have heard many such stories down through the years.
I know their pain. I have been where they are now. I know the devastation, the desperation, the despair and the hopelessness that drove them to do the unthinkable I also had those thoughts, but I could never act on them. I was blessed to have doctors who figured out the right combination of medications to help my son control his behavior. I also did all I could to learn to manage his behavior. I also had help from his older brother and sisters.
When I was in the depths of my despair, I could not predict that one day Pervis and I would be able to live together in peace and harmony. We parents of the severely impaired do not have a lot of resources or people who want to work with our children. I understand. They want to work with children on the upper end of the spectrum where there is a chance of success.
That is why I am thankful to Dr. Phil for tackling such an unpopular situation. He talked to Dr Frank Lawlis who has written a book, “The Autism Answer”. Dr Lawlis said that his book helps people with autism no matter where they are on the spectrum. Dr Lawlis said that these children have brain processing problems (I know) and certain things in their body or their environment can trigger this challenging behaviors. We figured out what some of the environmental triggers were for my son and had to eliminate them. It was called “structuring the environment”.
I have not read “The Autism Answer” by Dr. Lawlis, but a book that was a great help to me was ‘Gentle Teaching” by Dr. John McGee who was a psychiatrist at the University of Nebraska Psychiatric Hospital and on the staff of the university. When I was on the board of directors of the Autism Society of Michigan, some of us went to Omaha to study with Dr. McGhee. The time with him had a great influence on how I managed my son’s behavior (and mine) when I returned home. We do not have enough people like hum working with our children and parents.
I wrote about “Gentle Teaching” in a previous blog post, but what Dr. McGhee did that helped me so much was to teach us about “caregiver behavior”. He taught us to decide what kind of caregiver we wanted to be. He called it “defining our posture”. He also taught us to decide ahead of time how we would handle challenging situations. When you are in the midst of the challenging situation, you are not thinking as clearly. (Sometimes, I handled it by removing myself and getting a glass of wine).
Not much impresses our children on the lower end of the spectrum. Pervis Jr did not know or care that his father was a well known entertainer. As a member of the Spinners singing group, Pervis Sr had received many awards and traveled to many countries around the world, but Pervis Jr was unaware of any of his father’s accomplishments.
Since my son cannot speak, I feel compelled to speak for people in his situation. He is a large, intimidating looking black man who cannot talk which is a recipe for disaster in the wrong situation. You have heard those news stories.
Thanks to Dr. Phil for trying to do something about our situation.
Until next time: May the love of God enfold you.