Friday, April 15, 2011

Autism from a Tween's Perspective by Lisa Swinton

Today's guest post is written by Lisa Swinton. As a young teen (tween), she had a best friend who's brother was autistic. Lisa shares with us her experiences and thoughts while she got to know her friend's brother and how it's helped her as an adult.

Autism from a Tween's Perspective
by Lisa Swinton

One of my life long friends, Lauren, has a younger brother with autism. I first met Galen when Lauren and I became friends in middle school. Whenever, I would go to her house, Galen would say, “Hi, Lisa,” over and over again until I left the room. Or he would say, “I like your shirt,” or something else repeatedly to me. Naturally, at that age I had no idea why he acted the way he did and found it really strange and difficult to understand. Lauren’s simple explanation was, “He has autism.”

Well, that did not clear anything up for me at all. I think Lauren said that because she did not know how to tell someone else what autism meant, perhaps she did not understand it well herself and she lived with it on a daily basis. But I came to realize as I spent more time with Lauren’s family, that Galen’s brain worked differently and so he spoke and acted differently and at times, even his own family could not get through to him. I also realized over time, that Galen was friendly, good natured, liked track and had friends with common interests. I always took care to be friendly and kind to him and accept him as just different, even when I found his behavior confusing. 

Galen is a fairly high functioning person with autism. He was mainstreamed through most subjects in school and went on to attend a college in New Hampshire that caters to those with autism. He lives independently and has a job, but his parents live in the same town to be available in case he needs something.  

I have since come to know more people with autism and how varied a condition it can be. I am grateful for my early experience with Galen that prepared me for accepting people for who they are regardless of what their behavior is, autistic or not.



Thank you so much for your guest post, Lisa! On a personal note, this first year of middle school has been very interesting for me to observe. Just last night at my younger kids' school activity, a couple of girls came up to talk to me. They told me they sit with my son every day at lunch and shared some fun stories of things they talk about together. They also said some days, my son just goes into his own world and scarfs down his food as fast as he can. Those are the days his para helps him to slow down and interact with them. For middle school kids, these girls are very watchful. They pay attention to how my son feels each day and go with the flow. Some days are playful and fun - telling each other jokes through lunch. Other days they just try to get him to say hi and bait him into conversation by bringing up their favorite Wii games. They are truly sweethearts. 

I've also noticed that my son's track meets, there are a lot of kids who attend the home games and cheer him on. How awesome to know there are kids in this crazy mixed up modern world who have big hearts. Each time one of these kids gives my son a high-five, I can't help but imagine the incredible adults they will be one day and how they will share their love and acceptance with other families - just like Lisa.

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