All y'all moms of kids on the spectrum have probably read Temple Grandin and loved her. Isn't she convicting? I'm reading her new book, The Way I See It.
She says the worst thing you could do for an autistic child is nothing. Interact with the child even if he hates it. Teach him turn-taking and personal grooming. Sure, give him time to stim and be himself, but be sure to help your child be as functional as possible.
She also goes a bit into genetics and postulates that the more "severe" autistics probably won't be around so much in 100 years, but the less severe people on the spectrum are going to be necessary for society. I found that kind of scary to think about. Could you imagine being given the "option to terminate" an autistic child? Or to have your autistic child be the only one like him at the special preschool, knowing his peers didn't make it?
She discusses thinking in pictures. How do you think? Usually, I think in words. In print. Sometimes I think of the root word, and the history of the word, and the connotation of the word and how the connotation of the word may have changed over time... and wonder which exact flavour of the word the speaker is implying. Then I have forgotten everything you've said for the last three paragraphs... I do better with written language because then I can go back, look for context, and prevent stupid things from flying out before I hit the send button. :]
"As a society, we equate intelligence with language. Smart people are verbal people; verbal people who can express themselves better than most are assumed even more intelligent. People who can't use language well are perceived as dumb. We don't usually stop and question whether oral motor skills, rather than intelligence skills, might be causing the language impairment. No we do just the opposite and almost instantaneously judge the nonverbal person as being mentally impaired. Poor kid/adult; he can't talk. And, in our minds we continue with the most damaging thought of all: and therefore he has nothing to say."
"This is very true within the autism community. We assume those who are nonverbal - especially children who have been nonverbal since birth - have reduced or limited cognitive abilities. The DSM-IV definition of autism states that 75% of these individuals function at a mentally retarded level based on IQ scores. This sets up a vicious cycle; we expect less from these kids, so they receive fewer opportunities to learn. We don't challenge them to learn because we've already decided they can't. We test these children for IQ, using testing instruments that are largely ill-suited to this population, and then point to their low scores as confirmations of impaired mental functioning."
"The way I see it, it's time we rethink nonverbal individuals with autism and realize that the preconceived notions under which we've been relating to and educating this population over the last twenty years may be flat-out wrong. Luckily, other professionals in the autism community are coming to the same conclusion, and research is shedding light on the hidden abilities within this population... It is true that many highly impaired individuals with autism exist who also have accompanying mental retardation. But that percentage may be far less than we currently assume." (p. 85-86)
I have to tell you that Woodjie almost certainly must think in pictures. He still, really, doesn't speak, but is choosing from a field of FIVE PECs to tell me what he wants. And matching. Oh, it took us a long time to communicate with him (several months) what the concept of "matching" entails. But now he can match almost anything.