Those of you that follow my Facebook Author Page or are friends with me online know that I am a great supporter of Autism Awareness. But, if you don’t know me well, you may not know why.
My son had Asperger’s Syndrome.
The WIP I am working on now (one of them) A Special Kind of Love, deals with the romance between the mother of an autistic child, Sharon Daily, and Fire fighter Tanner West. Here is a except that lets you look into their story and also gives you some “Autism Awareness” Aaron is Sharon’s ten-year-old son.
*** One thing I do want to STRESS, this is not autobiographical. It in no way reflects my life or my experiences, and Aaron is NOT based on my son. He is a conglomerate of many autistic children I have met and read about in my life. My goal with this story is to show both the joys and difficulties of raising an autistic child. And the prejudices that one can face… and overcome… with LOVE.
“Do you think Aaron is enjoying himself?” He asked.
“Oh, yes! I think he’s having the time of his life. He’s dreamed of this for a long time. I haven’t seen him so content in ages. He isn’t even doing his repetitive behaviors. His stress level is really low right now. It’s quite amazing actually.”
“Repetitive behaviors? Like what?”
“When his stress level is high he has to ‘do things’ to feel in control. He sometimes rocks or paces. He does things in mutiples of three, like locking the door and then unlocking it and re-locking it, or turning the lights on and off, Always three times. That’s his ‘number’.”
“Oh. Is that a symptom of his autism?”
“Yes and no. Autistic children do have repetitive behaviors, but Asperger’s Syndrome is a little different. A common side effect is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Aaron is a little OCD.”
“I know a little about all of this stuff from my EMT training. But I don’t have any real experience. Does it bother you if I ask questions?”
“Not at all. I want people to understand Aaron and his disorder. My ex-husband never wanted to talk about it. He wanted to pretend Aaron was ‘normal’, but I think if people understand Aaron’s quirks it’s easier for them to accept him. You can ask anything you want.”
Okay, time to jump in with both feet.
“Do you think Aaron likes me? Did I do something to upset him? I thought we were getting along pretty well, but I put my arm around his shoulders back at the campsite and he shrugged me off and stepped away.”
“I’m sorry, that’s something I should have told you, Aaron doesn’t like to be touched. Most of the time he’ll shrug off a touch, even from me.”
“Wow that must be tough.”
“I’m used to it now. I won’t say it isn’t hard sometimes. When he is hurt or upset and I want to hug him, it’s hard to hold back. But he doesn’t get comfort from touch like most of us do. One of the theories is that autistic children suffer from sensory overload. They pull away because they feel too much. Sounds are louder to them, light is brighter, they are sensitive to everything.”
“That makes sense. Is that why he said he doesn’t like loud noises?”
“Yes. Aaron does best in a calm atmosphere. He doesn’t like loud noises or flashing lights or even just a lot of people around. That’s why I’m surprised at how calm he’s been on the ride. I’ve read a lot about ‘horse therapy’ for autism. Something about riding seems to calm them. Maybe it’s the rocking of the horse as they walk. I don’t know. But, I can certainly see that it seems to work, at least for Aaron.”
Their conversation returned to general topics for the rest of the ride back to the ranch. Tanner couldn’t keep the smile off his face. This had been one of the best days he’d had in… well, forever. He had a date with a hot woman. He’d had a relaxing afternoon and he’d met a pretty neat kid. Now if he could just finagle a phone number out of the lovely Sharon his day would be a complete success.
These three souls are on their way to finding A Special Kind of Love.
(this excerpt is from an unedited work in progress)