By Kodey Toney
Down Through the Chimney With Good Saint Nick
In a recent browse through Facebook I came upon a funny holiday themed list that I felt was great for a Christmas column. The list is “Reasons Why Santa Has Autism”, and while not all of them pertain to Konner, many struck a nerve because they reminded me of things through the years that he does or has done. I’m only sharing those that remind me of him. Since he’s one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received I’m giving a part of him to you as my present to you this year.
While this is funny it’s also good to point out that most families cope with these same things. While the saying is, “Once you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism”, you still have many little quirks that make them very similar.
So let’s get to the list:
1. He lines up and names his reindeer over and over again. When Konner was younger he would line up everything. He would pair up shoes and stretch them throughout the length of the house. His toys were always lined up from Hot Wheels to his Thomas Trains. I went into his room earlier this week and he had all his trains lined up across his floor. I find this to be pretty common among those on the spectrum.
2. He wears the same clothes every day. Ok, Konner has never really done this, but that’s probably only because we never let him. My guess is that he would never change if he were given the chance. Most children with autism become attached to a certain shirt or pajamas. This is typically because they have sensory issues, and if they can find a piece of clothing that doesn’t feel like it’s ripping their skin apart then they stick to it.
3. He has an extremely limited diet of only milk and cookies. Konner doesn’t have a sweet tooth like the big man, but he does get stuck on certain foods. There were about two years where he wouldn’t eat anything for lunch except for Lunchables. He has to have chicken and French fries when he goes to a fast food restaurant. He is a very picky eater, but it has gotten better. Many children on the spectrum are this way, and it boils down to the texture most times. There are things that don’t feel good to them so they stick with what they know is fine.
4. He gets stuck in the same routine year after year. Konner is a creature of habit. Routine at school and home are his way of keeping his sanity. He has to take a bath around the same time each day, then follows getting dressed, andfinally going to bed. Times vary slightly, but they have to be very close to the same time. Thesame thing threw off his day at work the last couple years. When they had stations they would change and it would make him upset if he didn’t have a warning.
5. He avoids social interaction and does all of his does all of his work at night when everyone else is asleep. Well, we all know that social and language skills are the issues associated with Autism Spectrum Disorders. As for the night work, not so much. Konner is usually asleep, or at least in bed, by 9 p.m.
6. He checks his list over and over and over…Ok, Konner doesn’t necessarily have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, but he does get upset if something is missing and he can’t find it quickly. He will go into meltdown. However, OCD is a common issue in people on the spectrum.
7. Everything is black or white (naughty or nice) there is no in-between. This comes from being very literal. He gets upset when you say something and it wasn’t something he actually said or felt. For instance, if you said, “Konner is mad,” he will get very upset if it is not how he really felt. He will scream, hit, and possibly meltdown and yell, “You said the wrong thing!” This is a big problem with him lately.
8. He loves squeezing into tiny spaces (chimneys). Konner loves to be compressed. This is common. In fact, anyone who has watched “Temple Grandin” the movie will remember the “squeezebox” that she created. The pressure is great for people who are under-sensitive to touch can use this to feel their extremities. Weighted vests and blankets are examples of everyday tools used for this pressure therapy.
9. He’s clueless about the social stigma of creeping into other people’s houses. I wrote a little time ago about Konner disappearing in my grandparents’ apartment building. He was found on the top floor and had been trying to open all of the doors on the way up this four-story building. He would have probably gone inside if they hadn’t been locked. He just didn’t understand that this was not socially accepted.
10. He does things that amaze people and leave them wondering how in the heck he did it. This happens almost every day around here. He can get past any security measure we have tried on the iPad and computer. He is a math wiz and can read exceptionally well. He creates some things on Minecraft that amaze me, including an entire Bikini Bottom scene that resembles the fictitious Sponge-Bob town.
While the big guy from the north may be similar in some of his issues I feel that my son is the amazing one. I know that Santa can do extraordinary things in one night, but he has lots of help and doesn’t have to deal with this year round. Konner is truly amazing and has an everyday problem. He is magic to me.