Tuesday, March 31, 2009
When it comes to your kids, it's easy to take credit for the good stuff. For example, there is no denying that my son Max takes after me in the looks department. As you can see from this photo of me as a child next to a photo of him, we share the same pale skin, eyes, nose, chin, and smile. My husband Scott and I joke that he is such a physically robust child, he is our wee viking, a clear descendent from the Danish side of my family. He also has a stubborn streak a mile wide, which both my husband and I can take credit for, as Max embodies everything Taurus, just like us. But the Autism, where the hell did that come from? In the past I have joked that my son looks like me on the outside and Scott on the inside. Kind of mean spirited in retrospect, but my husband has a thick skin and (hopefully) knew I was kidding, sort of. I haven't found any research that conclusively proves the cause(s) of Autism. There is certainly a genetic component though, as once you have a child with Autism, there is a one in seven chance you will have another child with the disorder. So, whose fault is it then? We each have some quirky family members we could point fingers at, but perhaps the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree. What I mean to say is, maybe both my husband and I have qualities and characteristics that have created the perfect Autism cocktail. Let's start with me. I have major sensory issues. I am extremely sensitive to the light. My sunglasses have to be double tinted so that I can see when it's sunny out. I wear my sunglasses outside until the sun has set. Florescent light makes me crazy. This has been true my entire life. I remember taking a drafting class in high school (anyone who went to Unionville High School will recall the huge concrete shop rooms with the high ceilings and harsh light), where I had to get permission to do my work outside of class because the lights gave me migraines. I am constantly turning the lights off in my home, preferring natural light, and even then, the darker the better. And it isn't only light that is an issue for me. I am an auditory learner, so if there is too much going on around me from a sound perspective, I lose my mind. This is a challenge as my husband and his family are loud talkers, who carry on multiple conversations at the dinner table. I have trained my husband to pipe down, but the rest of them aren't so well behaved. Love them to bits but mealtime with multiple Carefoot males can be overwhelming to say the least. I am also incapable of carrying on a conversation if there is a television on in the background, or music playing. The list goes on. I don't like wearing socks, wool is a no-go, as are tight clothes, and the sound of someone cutting their nails makes me climb the walls. I am incapable of sitting still - either tapping my feet or my hands until Scott takes hold of whatever appendage of mine is flailing about and secures it. I don't want to out Scott and all of his eccentricities (seems unfair and overly critical). I will say that he is not the most social person I have ever met. Typically he won't pursue going out, but if someone calls him to say, watch a UFC event, he will usually go. I find that his default is to enjoy spending time alone, and while he can be the life of the party, this behaviour is largely manufactured so that others will enjoy his company. Our son Max shares all of my sensory issues. He is extremely sensitive to light and sound. He is a sensory seeker, and needs deep pressure on his legs and arms to help him self-regulate. He often does the typical hand flapping that is common with Autistic children and rocks back and forth when he is stressed. He doesn't seek out others to play, and largely enjoys playing on his own. Looking at Scott and myself, it makes me think maybe we both have some Autistic tendencies. When you add them together, it's not hard to see where Max gets it from, good looks and all. Katrina Carefoot is a working mom with two children, her son Max, almost 3, and her daughter Cameron, almost 1. She works as a Marketing Manager in Toronto and writes about Autism, pop culture, and all things mommy at Fickle Feline.