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Living with autism

Sunday, August 12, 2012

(Photo)
Horses have been therapeutic for Jake, who feels at home around them.
It's an unfair and cruel condition. That's the outsider's perspective on autism, and it's hard to refute.

But for families that live with an autism spectrum disorder, it's possible that the experience can serve to strengthen bonds and bring a new appreciation to life. This is the case for the family of Michelle Bayne, whose youngest son, Jake, is affected by an autism spectrum disorder.

"When Jake was first diagnosed, I was heartbroken," Bayne said. "But now, I don't know how my life could've been different. It's been a blessing in many ways. It's opened my eyes to so many things, and I'm able to help parents go through some of the things we've gone through.

(Photo)
Last Halloween, Jake dressed as his favorite video game hero, Super Mario.
"He might have autism, but it definitely does not have him," Bayne said of Jake. "We have the attitude that this is something that we can overcome."

If the past five years are indication, there's no telling where young Jake may end up. He's becoming more and more independent, which is exactly what Bayne wants for her youngest.

And really and truthfully, Jake has a lot in common with most boys his age. He loves video games -- last Halloween he dressed as his favorite character, Super Mario -- and he has a passion for horses. As a matter of fact, Jake is quite skilled with and comfortable around horses for his age.

He loves to walk right up and pet just about any horse he sees, and has no fear of climbing atop one. His mom is proud of this, and she sees how animals have taught Jake to nurture -- a sometimes tough trait for autistic children to pick up.

"People think that autistic children don't understand empathy, but they do," Bayne said. "They just process it in a different way than we do.

"When Korley (Davis) passed away, I never would have thought that it would click with Jake what had happened," she explained. "But he was heartbroken, and for months we couldn't mention her name in our house. I was amazed that he understood at 8 years old."

This understanding of warmth and compassion is something that makes Bayne especially proud of her Jake. It's not hard to tell that he's been conditioned to understand this concept through an outpouring of affection and love at home with not only his mom, but also his bigger brother and sister, J.J. and Kimme.

"Kimme and J.J. are a blessing to Jake, but he's also been a blessing to them," she explained.

"In the past, when you said 'I love you,' Jake didn't understand," Bayne said. "But now, when he hangs up the phone, I get to hear, 'I love you, mama,' and he knows what saying that means. He's almost 10, but it took us a long time to get to that.

"As the parent of an autistic child, any small milestone is a big victory," she added.

The main things that Bayne wanted to communicate, however, were the importances of awareness and early detection of autism.

Statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that over the past 10 years, occurrence of autism has gone from 1 in 150 children to 1 in 88 children. And this occurrence is four times more likely in boys.

"I just want people to be more aware," said Bayne. "It's becoming more and more of an epidemic."

"If you suspect anything with your child, go talk to your pediatrician," she urged. "Don't wait. Don't think you're overreacting -- you're not. Don't stop until you feel good about what you're told."

It remains to be seen where research can go with autism spectrum disorders, but a good sign comes on a more societal level. As the occurrence of autism increases, so does the amount of awareness and understanding.

"At school, they've accepted Jake," Bayne said. "If he has a meltdown, they can act like it's not a big deal. I'm proud that Jake has gone to Liberty School. The kids at school are so sweet to him, and that's important to me."

So while it's not been a breeze for the Bayne family, it's clear that Michelle has gotten what she wanted for all three of her children so far -- acceptance, the opportunity to grow as people and a home with a foundation of love.


Comments
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With an autism rate of one in every 88 children, one in ever 54 boys, we need to do more than urge early detection and awareness. A once rare disorder is now so common that everyone knows someone with an autistic child and no one can tell us why. Officially autism has no known cause or cure. There's nothing a mainstream doctor can tell a new mother so that her healthy baby doesn't also end up on the autism spectrum.

We are in the midst of a terrible epidemic. The rate of one in 88 is based on studies of 8 year olds, not 80 year olds. No one has ever found a comparable rate among adults and that simple fact should be scaring us all. Eighty percent of Americans with autism are under the age of 18. We are on the edge of tsunami of disabled young adults with autism who will require support and care for life. It's time we stopped pretending it's normal and acceptable to have countless thousands of children everywhere with autism. It's also time we honestly and earnestly address the cause and stop the epidemic.

Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism http://www.ageofautism.com/

-- Posted by amdachel on Sun, Aug 12, 2012, at 1:08 AM


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