Friday, November 12, 2010

Freud, Autism and Echoes

Written by a mom of a beautiful little girl with Pervasive Developmental Disorder. I am in
no way an expert, I am just sharing our experiences in hopes of encouraging and uplifting other parents going through the same journey in this crazy walk with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Dr. Sigmund Freud theorized that human people are controlled by three aspects of personality. The Id, the Ego, and the Superego.

The Id, is the part of our nature that wants what it wants when it wants it and it doesn't care about the consequences. The Superego is the polar opposite of the Id. It is self-righteous, obsessed with doing the right thing no matter what. You could say it's Puritanical almost in it's drive to do the right thing - sometimes to an extreme.

Then there is the poor Ego - stuck in the middle, it is the part of ourselves that finds the happy medium between super morality and complete lack of concern for what consequences there are for having it's desires filled.

All children are controlled mainly by the Id. It is up to parents and their church family to teach them that the Id cannot have complete control. It is a process every parent faces. However, when you have a special needs child who is autistic or has autism spectrum disorder, there is another facet to equation. Elizabeth struggles with her Id like other children, however, add into this her poor impulse control and it means, that as her mom I often keep an eye on her more so than was necessary when Sarah was 9 yrs old. Sarah might want to do something, but she was able to stop and think about it for a few moments before acting or choosing to walk away. This is not always the case with Elizabeth - it's improved a great deal, but it's still a work in progress.

In many ways, I find it necessary to protect Elizabeth from herself. A good example of this, is the bus stop. Elizabeth rides a bus each day to and from school. Her bus stop is within plain sight of our dining room windows, however, when hurried or rushed, Elizabeth will run out into the street to get to her bus even if there are cars coming without looking. Because of her trouble remembering the simplest things (names are hard for her to remember and memorizing Bible verses - it happens, it just takes time) I have to watch that she doesn't talk to strangers - even though we have talked with her on numerous occasions about this very things. Going to Florida in March was fun, but I could not have possibly taken her with us to Disney World without Chris. While visiting some wonderful older friends of mine in Florida, Elveda wanted to take her to see the alligator in the pond where they live. I couldn't let her take her - Elizabeth would have wanted to go closer and without one of us there who is quicker, she might easily have become alligator bait and it would have been too late. These are just a few of the challenges that come with dealing with an autistic or special needs child.

That is one problem. As a young child though, the lack of impulse control also presented another issue. Language barriers. Even after entering public school, Elizabeth had and still struggles with aspects of speech. During her first years at her school, when asked a question, she would repeat the last word of the question. She could not at the time answer what my name or Chris' name were. She can do this now, but for a long time, it was a matter of great concern for us. Until a few years ago, she would have been a kidnappers dream - she might have escaped, but being able to tell the police anything that might have helped her, would have been nearly impossible. I am very relieved now that she can answer questions and give appropriate responses. Also as a young child of 2-6 Elizabeth often would repeat her favorite phrases over and over again. "To Infinity and beyond" was common in our house as well as the Tarzan yell (accompanied by stripping down to her underwear and beating her chest). She also often repeated phrases she heard from us often. A few examples of this are: "Oh Elizabeth" generally used when she did something naughty or "wait, wait, wait." This presented problems, because while she could repeat phrases she heard often, she did not know how to ask to play with other children, how to offer comfort verbally, and she was often picked on and ridiculed by students in her preschool classroom (had I realized the school had no intention of doing anything, I would not have left her there at all).

Having a child with autism spectrum disorder is challenging to say the least, however, it also comes with it some rewards. Elizabeth is still younger than her physical age so it means Daddy is still her "hero" and Mommy can still fix everything. She takes great pleasure in simple things and her imagination is amazingly vibrant and alive to the point when she plays with other children they can almost see what she is imagining. Yes it meant we had to find a way to unlock her from the world in her head and help her learn to function in the world today, but we also allow her to keep it alive inside her head too. We encourage her imagination with books and art in school and at home. Instead of watching a ton of TV, we often send the girls outside to play for multiple reasons. First, it isn't good for children to be couped up inside. Second, too much TV is not good for them, even though Lizzie needs it at times to help her decompress a bit. Third, I want the children and especially Lizzie to know how to entertain herself and play well other children, including her sisters.

Some of you are at the beginning of the path and only starting to walk it with your special needs child. Please, let me encourage you to look for and try to find the silver lining in this. It will be the difference between feeling like you are drowning and taking it one day at a time. This will not happen overnight, look for the positives if possible. At first, we didn't know what to expect from Elizabeth, so finding the nice things was a pleasant surprise. The Lord led us to the right school for Lizzie. Which is good, because without having sought his guidance, I don't know where I would have put her in school.

I hope you all have a good week. God bless you and walk with you today and all the days of your life.

In Christ,
Maureen Koeppel

No comments: