Raising Awareness, Raising Funds

April is Autism Awareness Month. Of course, April is half over already, but it’s been pretty busy at Kninja Central. As you may already know, my second son, Liam, is on the high functioning end of the autism spectrum. Each parent of an autistic child faces unique challenges. Autism being a complete spectrum, our children manifest the symptoms of their particular neurological glitches in very, very different ways. It took me a while to suspect Liam of being on the spectrum because I’d always heard that autistic children weren’t very affectionate, and Liam is the huggiest and most outwardly affectionate of my children.

Liam, in retrospect, was a suspiciously easy baby. He was calm, sweet, and often content to sit by himself. As he reacher toddlerhood, he liked to play alone a lot of the time. Gabriel was often frustrated that the baby didn’t want to play with him. The earliest clue, again in retrospect, was that Liam had the same reaction to both praise and criticism. He would listen politely, without much interest, and then return to what he was doing. Even if I’d told him no, he’d still seem surprised (and displeased) when I removed him from a dangerous situation. He didn’t crave the attention of adults the way other children usually do.

That struck me as a personality quirk, but as he got older, the quirks became more pronounced, particularly when his speech became full fledged. He spoke in a very scripted way, memorizing books and DVDs, and co-opting the language for his own use. He even spoke in the same tones and accent that he first heard the words spoken in. As an example, when Eleanor was born, Liam was three and a half. He was a big fan of David Attenborough, and had memorized the two four DVD sets Life of Mammals and Blue Planet. When I would nurse Eleanor, Liam would say, in a British accent, “Mommy, you are surviving her on your fatty milk, which she will turn into blubber, or baby fat.” Every time. In the car, I’d hear a little voice from the back seat pipe up with, “The blue whale is right underneath our boat! Over 100 feet long, the blue whale is the largest animal ever to live on planet Earth!” He’d continue, sometimes for five or ten minutes at a time, reciting whole videos or passages. He could adapt the words to his own needs, but the times he used words wholly his own were few and far between. If he became really agitated, he retreated into his scripts, feeding people lines, and finding comfort in knowing exactly what would happen next.

At three and a half, it finally became impossible to ignore all the quirks. There were so many, and they were so odd. Any of them alone could have been normal for a young child, but they added up to something more. We took Liam in for testing, and he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified) shortly after his fourth birthday.

We do face a lot of daily challenges with Liam, but a lot of joy, too.

There is more autism research being conducted today than ever before, but we’re still a long way from knowing the causes and triggers of autism. And with one in every 150 children being diagnosed with autism these days, it’s essential that we learn the whys and hows.

I’m not one of those who thinks that the word “cure” is appropriate here. Part of what is wonderful about Liam comes from the unique way he looks at the world. But the unique way that Liam looks at the world is also what makes it harder for him to get along in the world. I want that gap bridged. And for that reason, I’m offering a prize package of yarn for those who donate to the Autism Research Institute between now and May 16th.

Make a donation of any amount, and email me at knittingkninja@gmail.com to let me know, and I’ll enter you in a drawing to win some of my stash yarn. One entry per person, and this is entirely on the honor system. I have no way of checking to see if you actually donated. The yarn I’ve pulled together is this: three skeins of Rowan RYC Soft Tweed in Twig, two skeins of a brown boucle yarn simply called Knitting Boucle, and one skein of Panda Silk in Nutmeg.

Prize yarn

Once again, make a donation to the Autism Research Institute, then email knittingkninja@gmail.com and let me know, and you’ll be entered into a random drawing to win the above yarn.

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4 Responses to “Raising Awareness, Raising Funds”

  1. Amanda Says:

    Thanks for sharing Liam’s story. It’s fascinating and it’s great that he has such an advocate in you. (Ooh and there’s a bonus little Eleanor sneaking into the yarn pics.)

  2. Guro Says:

    What a beautiful post, written about a beautiful child.

  3. Nancy McCarroll Says:

    Please see “To You, My Sisters” in my second posting dated 4/21/08. I hope you will like it; it is by Maureen Higgins and I had not come across it before. It is the last writing under the posting MARCH FOR BABIES – SPINA BIFIDA.
    God bless ya. You do beautiful knitwork! And I like your blog. You are one busy lady. Nancy

  4. Yarnmeme, yo « Knitting Kninja Says:

    […] finally, just a reminder that the Autism Awareness Month drive is ongoing. I’ve received one entry so far, so entrant, you’re winning. Remember, any […]

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