Before heading out to the New Jersey horse country bike path, we stopped to at a gas station to put air in in the bikes's tires. As Jim did this, I was idly looking around and noted the license plate on a woman's car:
As in, 'cure freak'---someone who is a freak about a cure for some disease?
I didn't see any ribbon magnets or stickers indicating that the woman in the car had some particular kind of curing in mind. The license plate reminded me of a topic that I've thought a lot about, and once posted regularly about on Autism Vox, the whole issue about 'should we cure autism,' of 'acceptance vs. cure.'
I still think that talking about 'curing' autism is at least a bit misguided. Autism isn't like cancer. Charlie was born as he is, with certain neurological and other challenges/impairments/deficits that we've done our best to help him address through years. He wasn't even 2 years old when he started therapies and an educational program---Charlie's been in a school sort of setting for the vast majority of his life. I understand people's hesitations about giving children psychotropic and other sorts of medications, but they can help (all while monitoring a child's health and responses very carefully, and with regular consultations with a doctor). And it feels a bit like a no-brainer now, but daily aerobic exercise seems to really help Charlie stay in that peaceful-easy-feeling way, with 'behaviors managed' and calm and carrying on being the routine rather than the exception.
Since Charlie was younger and we tried some biomedical sorts of 'treatments,' there've been more than a few books on curing and preventing autism published. I read one this past summer and, if I can get some projects done up to a point, I'll be writing about it at Care2.com.
'Prevention' is something Jim and I have been talking about more and more, but in a very different sense. Acceptance of Charlie and his challenges, and his unique ways of being, became part of our everyday a long time ago. Too, for us, the more we've let go and let be, the more peaceful-easy feelingness we seem to have in our household.
It's not that we've 'given in,' or that we 'give in,' to 'whatever Charlie wants and just don't do anything.'
Through all the years that Charlie did ABA therapy sessions at home, we kept 'ABC' data about the antecedent to a 'behavior,' the actual 'behavior' itself, and the 'consequence' (i.e., whatever occurred after the 'behavior'). Keeping track of all this gave us a fairly good, if sometimes confusing, picture of what might be behind Charlie banging his head or whatever. In the past year, we started too realize that certain over-used phrases ('quiet hands' and other infamous bits of special ed speak; routine requests like 'do you need the bathroom') seemed to irk Charlie (who was sick of being talked down to, I would think). We found other, mostly non- or minimally verbal ways to communicate these things to Charlie (who is now quite able to handle the bathroom business on his own now, thank you).
All this has indeed seemed to create an environment in which Charlie doesn't feel like he is constantly being bugged or reprimanded to do this or that (who likes that?). I think he senses, too, that we have faith in him to do what he needs to do, and respect that sometimes it just takes him more time.
All the bike rides and walks have also been key in lessening behavior storminess. Those storms are very physically involving for Charlie. Long bike rides, ocean swimming, and the like have been far better ways for him to use his energy. And, I am inclined to think that he feels far better after accomplishing some physical feat, rather than ashamed after some difficult moments.
Saturday was a sort of 3 + 3 + 3 day. We all slept in (it was a busy week for all of us). Charlie and Jim went on a 10-mile morning bike ride, a fast 10- miler on the bike path, and another 12 on their home route, with Charlie throwing in a few extra miles by taking them down some streets they've not traveled on. Charlie was edgy en route to the bike path for ride #2, and at the start of ride #3, but did good staying calm (more or less) until he could bike it out.
I think he is learning, he can prevent blow-ups; can stop the storm while it is brewing, before it becomes tornadoish. Good for us all to learn to keep it peaceful-easy.
Guess that means we are become something of peace-freaks----much better, I would say, than the alternative.