Living with Autism and Trauma

When you tell someone you have a child with autism they automatically assume you are referring to a child or person with full physical and mental disabilities. Little is still understood about the spectrum of this disorder and that people function at a high or low level depending on severity. Make no mistake, even if a child is high functioning autistic that presents with a massive range of challenges for both them and their families and should not be minimised.

Like all people on the autism spectrum, people who are high functioning have a hard time with social interaction and communication. They do not naturally read social cues and might find it difficult to make friends. They can get so stressed by a social situation that they shut down. They do nott make much eye contact or small talk.

People on the spectrum who are high-functioning can also be very devoted to routine and order. They might have repetitive and restrictive habits that seem odd to others.

There is a wide range of how they do with school and work. Some do very well in school, while others get overwhelmed and cannot concentrate.

Some can hold a job, and others find that really hard to do. It all depends on the person and the situation.But even for someone on the spectrum who can do a lot, social skills are usually underdeveloped. My son is high functioning and combines all the above but does exceptionally well at school however this brings with it a raft of problems as he suffers from extreme OCD and Perfectionism so any mark less than 100% causes extreme stress. He works his heart out and gives everything to each essay, assignment and exam. Exam time is particularly difficult due to high levels of anxiety and he takes anti-anxiety medication and takes exams alone in a room by himself unable to cope with “the crowd situation”. The school is by and large terrific but it just takes one teacher to make an off hand remark to send him off the rails for days. It’s all a fine balancing act.

Mix this with a Mother suffering from high suicidality and Complex PTSD and our family life is complicated and it’s safe to say my partner is a genius managing the household. Strangely my son’s autism has helped him manage my condition as due to his high intelligence we can explain it to him (up to a certain level), assure him of my love for him, took him to meet my psychiatrist who explained the condition in concrete terms to him in language he could understand and accept. In other words play to the strengths of his autism. In strange ways it has been tougher on my other three children to accept as they do not accept it in concrete terms but question it and experience extreme levels of anger towards the situation and my past. My autistic son has experienced the anger but his traits have helped him channel it. He is remarkable and has shown insight beyond his years. He has witnessed episodes of self harm and coped but will the next day have a meltdown following a 98% mark for an essay !!!!! Autism is a cruel spectrum to be on and my heart bleeds for the torture he goes through each night setting up the rumpus room just to sit down and watch TV with arranging each detail of the room but then he can hold his Mother’s arm after a cutting episode and administer first aid waiting for a dissociative or flashback spell to pass and for me to return. He is amazing. I have so much respect for him.

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