Sixteen years ago today my oldest was born and things haven’t been the same since. I can’t imagine life without him (or the other two that followed.) We have a special bond, in part because of my husband’s job but also because our personalities are similar. We were solo a lot of the time during his first several years of life, but when he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at three years old, my world opened up. Without my son, I wouldn’t understand myself as well as I do, my other kids would probably have health issues, and I wouldn’t have found a good percentage of the books I read. His autism has enabled new understanding, peace, and preventative strategies for health and well-being. It’s allowed me to make connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and inspired several of my articles and manuscripts. My son has motivated my life, from writing to relationships, from reading to travel. It’s been a journey of love, with plenty of ups and downs to share along the way. Here’s to more years of sharing.
Sensory issues are often the crux of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, and because most people spend their waking hours with their eyes open, visual problems are often the most tiresome. Light sources, rather natural or manmade, can be a blessing or curse for those with this sensitivity.
In the U.S., we’re on the verge of a possible lighting crisis. The turn of the New Year will mark another reduction in light bulb options, closing the choice of yet more incandescent bulbs at stores around the country. Fluorescent lights, whether long strip bulbs or the compact swirly ones (which are terrible for the earth—read the disposal warning on them), are often visual triggers for susceptible people. The flicker, harsh glow, and even the hum of the offending bulbs can cause headache, eye fatigue or emotional meltdowns for those with sensory difficulties.
The same thing happened, not long ago, in the United Kingdom. You can read one account of it here. http://www.autism.org.uk/working-with/leisure-and-environments/architects/light-sensitivity-and-autism.aspx
This an important situation for me, as myself and loved ones suffer from light sensitivity. Ben, one of the main characters in CORRODED (one of my fictional labors of love, yet-to-be-published stories) has to deal with this as well. Here’s a little peek, from Chapter Ten, when Mary and Ben are at his house playing a round of Battleship.
“You never explained to me why you don’t go outside during the day,” I said.
“I go outside. Remember the first day we met? I sat on the porch with you and your mom.”
“Oh… well, then why don’t you go for walks and stuff?” I asked.
“I’m sensitive to sunlight.”
“Like, you burn easily?”
Ben shook his hands like he was air-drying them. “No, it’s my eyes. Bright sunlight causes sensory overload and I can barely function. Fluorescent light does the same thing. It’s common for Aspies.”
I looked up at the soft white glow of the over-head lights. “So, going to schools and office buildings must be difficult.”
“The worst. That’s one of the reasons I homeschool. If I do have to venture out for a medical appointment or something I wear sunglasses inside.”
He hit all the physical milestones the first year but never slept through the night. He was never a big talker, only said “mama” and “bye-bye” and such sporadically. He’d reach for things, but not point, screaming until I figured out what he wanted.
During his 3-year check-up the pediatrician saw enough “red flags” to send us to a neurologist and psychologist. After going through various testing in August-September of 2001 he was labeled PDD-NOS. (9/11 for me was an autism attack.) After escaping from reality for a week by immersing myself in the first four books in the Harry Potter series I buckled down and started doing autism research on-line and read a LOT of books.
We also went to an allergist who did skin prick testing on him and said since my son didn’t react to milk or mold or pollen he did not need to be on allergy medicine or restricted in his diet at all. I kept his diet GFCF but we dropped the allergy medicine.