Friday, December 21, 2012

Five things parents should know about autism

Scott Lentine, 25 (above), is a college graduate interning at the Arc of Massachusetts. He loves dogs. In his work, Scott advocates for disability legislation to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities. Scott has Asperger’s and writes about his experiences in poems. I asked him what five things he would share with parents raising younger kids with autism. Thanks Scott! Louise

Five things parents should know about autism
By Scott Lentine

1. Autism is not correlated with violence. I say this in the wake of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy.

2. People on the autism spectrum can have a wide range of emotions and attributes.

3. Not all people with autism are lonely.

4. People with autism can have diverse interests in subjects and hobbies.

5. Parents should try their best to find the appropriate doctor and psychologist to make their lives happier. Treat your child with warmth and kindness. Using fidget toys and sensory-integration tools can help soothe tensions in the child with autism. In addition, parents could help find friends for their child: kids who might have similar interests and who are sympathetic to the child with autism. The friend can be on the spectrum or neurotypical. I do wish I could have had more friends when I was younger.

I also asked Scott what he had learned during his internship at The Arc.

“I learned that people with developmental disabilities often do not get proper public services or health care after turning 22 and formally leaving the public educational system. There needs to be universal health care (physical and mental) for people on the spectrum and they should not be denied insurance coverage.

“I tend to view the autism community as a new civil rights movement similar to that of African Americans and LGBT citizens. There definitely need to be more songs about autism. Perhaps, people like Neil Young, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Peter Yarrow, Pete Seeger and Tom Waits could do songs about this subject. It would also be great if Hollywood did a movie on the life of autism activist and physician Dr. Margaret Bauman. I saw her when I was a child in the 90s in Lexington, Mass.

Below is one of Scott’s poems:

Just a Normal Day

Never knowing what to say

Never knowing what to do

Always looking for clues

Just a normal day

Feeling unsure

Totally perplexed with everyday life

Always on edge never certain

I wish I could lift this curtain

Needing to constantly satisfy my need for information

Always online searching for new revelations

Going from site to site

Obtaining new insights every night

Trying to connect with people my age

Attempting to reveal my unique vision

But ending up alone and unengaged

Feeling like my life needs a total revision

Just a normal day


There also needs to be more social programs and employment training programs for people on the spectrum.

Scott's poem is very good. Thanks Scott!
He's right about the need for more social programs and employment training programs. They are very much needed. They have to be carefully planned. Ongoing mentoring and coaching are also essential.

I love this! I think it's a brilliant idea to make a movie about an autism activist. I have never heard of Dr. Margaret Bauman, but I would love to learn about her. And writing songs about autism is something I would have never thought of, although I have always wondered if Coldplay's song "Clock" is talking about autism and siblings.

I'm not sure if "Clocks" is about autism, but I suppose with the minimalist rhythms, it could sound like a song to capture the nature of some individuals with autism. I think Philip Glass could also be a composer to capture the life of an autistic individual since he is one of the pioneers of minimalist classical music. David Byrne, I believe, was rumored to have Asperger's. Daryl Hannah is on the Asperger's side of the spectrum. I also my poems on the comment sections in Ron Lieber's recent NYT column

Hi Scott -- how did Dr. Bauman have an impact on you? What was different about her or her approach? It would be great to hear. Thanks!

Louise- I think the best thing about Dr. Bauman was that she gave her patients fidget toys to calm down if they felt antsy during the sessions. Her colleagues at The Autism Research Foundation have even developed a program called Athletes 4 Autism, which has been recognized by the likes of Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch. I even found out that Dr. Bauman attended the same high school as Jane Fonda.

This is great! Thank you so much Scott!