Tuesday, November 24, 2009

What color is autism?

“Isn’t the sky the most beautiful shade of cerulean blue today?”

I thought he was color blind, because when I asked what color an object was, he would tell me the wrong one. In school, turned out not only did he know cerulean blue, as he told his teacher, he knew the entire box of Crayola 64 crayons! He wore an Indiana Jones fedora for three straight years. He wouldn’t wear anything but tan pants to “look like Indy” for at least two years. When he was younger, I had to flush the toilet for him, he couldn’t stand the sound. He loved water play and would spend hours playing at the sink. He hates to cut his hair. He can tell you more than you ever wanted to know about UFOs, Mythbusters and the latest video game to capture his interest, but he couldn’t tell the librarian his phone number. He cries easily, especially when frustrated, which also happens frequently. He knows what direction he is traveling at any given moment. He notices details that would escape most of us. Like the time they painted a gas station bench…the new color, the old color…doesn’t matter. He remembers. But he can’t recall his math facts. He doesn’t like doing activities that are not of his own choosing, and hates to perform on cue. He cannot eat gluten or dairy without a lengthy side trip to the bathroom. Consequently, he is on a special diet. He still moves snails out of harms way, just as he once did when he was two. He is now eleven.

She yowls like a cat when she is angry. Hours are spent in solitary play. She is very imaginative, creating elaborate worlds in her play, but other people don’t easily fit into her scenarios. She can be very rigid. She likes routine. She has a hard time with transitions, even when it is something she really wants to do. Her self-control, while improving, can be difficult. She eats almost anything, and more than you would think…she is a elfin little thing. She cannot read well yet, and doesn’t so much want to. She must be taught concepts repeatedly in order for them to take. Sometimes they do. She is a sensory-seeker, needing a lot of hugs, cuddles and attention. If she doesn’t get it, she will act out negatively. We call it “getting her pound of flesh” one way or another. Her whole life is a song. Even her voice is a song: a high-pitched melodious voice is used in conversation. Unless she is yelling. She speaks in half sentences. “Want cookie!” She is social, and loves having friends. She likes being in charge. She has trouble understanding changed decisions…she is certain they are lies. If I say something, I must follow through. She has a memory like an elephant, when it comes to things she cares about. She throws the worst tantrums I have ever seen. She is eight.

She loved to swing as a baby. At three, she threw horrible fits. I would have to hold her to keep her from hurting herself and me. In preschool, while other girls wanted to be a mom, she told her teacher she wanted to be a paleontologist. When her teacher expressed confusion she told her, " You know, a scientist that studies dinosaurs. Everyone knows that!" She taught herself to read at three and a half. She was reading chapter books by age five. She was a walking dictionary. She loves Biology, genetics, Latin, Logic. She is very literal, black and white and has a strong sense of justice. She doesn’t always pick up nuances. Interruption of conversations comes naturally to her, but not because she is rude, she just doesn’t get the rhythm of the talk. She understands sarcasm, but doesn’t appreciate it. She struggles with perfectionism, and a lot of anxiety. She taught herself to knit and play the piano. She tries hard to fit in with her peers, but there is always something just different about her. We say she is the “oldest thirty year old” we know. She is fifteen.

Some may say, “Well, sure, that is any kid!” But truly, my kids are like the amp in the movie Spinal Tap . Most amps went to ten. But the one in Spinal Tap went to eleven, “that’s one more, isn’t it? ” And that’s what my kids are…just a bit more.. a bit harder. This is what autism looks like in my house. I have no idea what causes it. I only know I watch my children struggle with it. We are fortunate, I suppose, since the picture I paint you is of high-functioning autism. They all have speech. They don’t spin. Or flap. But it still affects our lives. We walk on eggshells. It isn’t so much a cure I want…as an answer of what caused it, but if you ask my kids, they will tell you they want a cure. They say it is hard to live in their skin. I can see that’s true.

Every day, I see that’s true.

Tina Cruz is a writer, wife and mother of three children, two who have high-functioning autism, one who has Asperger's tendencies. She advocates for autism awareness and education, as well as acceptance. She views autism as a growth process and the opportunity to connect parents for support as a privilege. She is the Special Needs Editor at typeamom Orange County Special Needs Kids Examiner at Examiner.com, a featured blogger at OC Family and her own site, Send Chocolate reflects her passion for her children and autism. t Autism Sucks is her brainchild.


  1. You write so eloquently about a subject that touches us all. I love reading your posts. Only one of my children has autism and it is not high functioning but it's polar opposite. And yet, I wouldn't trade him for the the world.


  2. Same goes here. What a beautiful post. It hits home on so many levels. Thanks.

  3. Wonderful post. Made me comment on it as well as zero-minded. What to say?

  4. Interesting post. One of my new friends has two sons with autism (opposite ends of the spectrum) and I always find her stories of her sons fascinating.

    I saw your blog and thought I'd stop in and see what you had to say.


  5. Beautiful writing. I wish I could say it half as well as you do. Very touching. I can totally relate.

    Warmest regards,

  6. Amazing what we experience as parents! Mine is on overdrive tactile sensations all the time. Everything to this kid FEELS like more, too much. I can't imagine his world.

  7. Thank you for the wonderful read. The key to putting more love in this world is in realizing we are all part of God's plan and God is the only one who has the right to manipulate such a plan.

    Love has nothing to do with manipulation. The cure for all diseases comes with realizing the only real disease is manipulation.

    To care for those less fortunate is not a disease. It is the way of God.


add your voice to the conversation!
(spam will be cheerfully and swiftly deleted)