Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Comparing Differences Between Verbal and HFA Sons

My two sons are on opposite ends of the autism spectrum with totally different personalities. They both are in Middle School. One is homeschooled with the other in special education. One is verbal and one is not.

My son Matthew is 12, in special ed with an aide. He is nonverbal, not toilet trained, drinks only rice milk and has a limited diet. He is on an anti psychotic called Geodon. He gives good eye contact, screams and yells a lot and bangs the walls constantly. His finger prints and marks are evidenced on the white walls. He is a sensory seeker, loves to play with strings, belts and ribbons. You can hear him a block away.

My son Nicholas is almost 14, homeschooled, obsessed with the cat and perseverates on animals. He is high functioning with some social deficits and going through the puberty stage with his voice cracking and catching up to me in height.

These are the obvious differences, but in the home there are some that might surprise the average person. The computer is in the kitchen giving me an open walkway to the living room to see where Matt is, plus the bedroom is off to the right before the table here so he goes in and out there.

He follows me around the kitchen - I cannot sneak anything out of the refrigerator without him noticing and looking in my direction. He is fascinated with the whip cream can that I use to spray into my mouth at times. No one else in the house uses the whip cream but me for my hot cocoa or ice cream. I have to open my mouth so he can see what is happening. The same is true when I remove my dentures to clean them and he all of a sudden is at my shoulder trying to get a glimpse of my mouth.

He helps out quite often in the kitchen. He will stock the rice drink containers in the cabinet, pull apart the string cheese and place on shelf, he will get out the butter and salt when requested and can distinguish between maple and chocolate syrup. He will put away the egg carton and when done eating his fast food fries will shake out the paper bag into the garbage before disposing of bag in the paper bag for recycling can outside.

If he uses the last paper towel he will toss the cardboard roll into paper bag and retrieve another roll from under the sink. If he cannot open it he will hand it to me. Nicholas will toss out the empty roll but not attempt to get a new one out for the next person. Nick will not tear the string cheese apart but lay it on the shelf. Nick still gets confused between two paper bags in house in opposite spots. One is for the recycle bin and the other is to take to get money for recycling since we pay a fee at the store for these.

Matthew gets five cases per month of Huggies Goodnites. They are delivered and left in the living room and we bring them into the kitchen. Matthew will carry a box and drop it on the floor or on island table and try to open it. He will hand me each diaper bag to place in a top cabinet where I stand on foot ladder. He helps in tearing down boxes.

Sometimes during the day while I am cooking I will forget it is Nick and ask for things and he is not receptive, plus usually either doing school work or playing with the cat.

Matthew knows where everything is in the house. Each morning I ask for a washcloth to wipe his face and hands before we leave to go wait for bus. He will put videos and books back where they originated. He is all about order and very organized. He drops the jacket down as he enters the house, goes in bedroom and removes his shoes and puts back in spot, grabs out his homework and gets a crayon to scribble on homework page before handing back to me to place in backpack.

I need to teach him to remove his socks the correct way and not inside out. His aide is working on teaching him how to zip his jacket and we discussed tying shoes this morning.

These are just somethings that make them unique in their own way.


tiffrutherf said...

It's cool to learn about your boys!! It's amazing how big the spectrum is even among siblings? Ps.I thought my kid was the only one that "stood guard" at the refrigerator!!

Mama Mara said...


Kajoli said...

Fascinating kids Matt sounds sooo cute

Kajoli said...

COuld you talk a little bit more about your boys in the ways they have relationships with people, are they emotionally expressive

Trish said...

This was very enlightening; thank you for sharing it. Do you think Nick's unresponsiveness/lack of initiative around the house is in any way due to typical teenage behavior or has he always been like that?

autismfamily said...

I think it is a bit of both for Nick - typical teenage stuff and lack of initiative. He is too consumed by his obsession on animals.

autismfamily said...

To tiffrutherf -

I cannot find contact info anywhere on your blog and comments do not seem to be available as I click to try to leave one on every post and it is not working.

I wanted to tell you about gluten free twitter party I am having on Fri April 3rd. Stay tuned for more details. Are you on twitter? My id is www.twitter.com/autismfamily

stimtalk said...

It's great the way you give each of your sons exactly what they need based on their different abilities. It certainly isn't easy.

I admire you.

Tanya @ Teenautism said...

Bonnie, I love your descriptions. It's so interesting to read that Matt is more orderly. Nigel is like Nick in that he is less orderly. Thanks for writing about these differences.

Maddy said...

Thank you. I'm sick of hearing a whole list of deficits when it comes to my own sons but when they ask me to come up with their strengths at an IEP I know that my answers seem inadequate to the case at hand, all those tiny huge things that you have shared with us.
Best wishes

Holly Nappi Collins said...

It is interesting! My nonverbal daughter also knows where everything is in the house--less so my verbal autistic son. My daughter alos likes to put everything away and takes things out of packages,etc.. Meghan is also obsessed with new things, like a new stick of butter when there is half a stick left from the old.. new toilet paper when there is plenty left over... needless to say, we go through a lot of waste...

LePetitBoutique said...

Great blog! I love reading about other autistic children/adults. My son is on the spectrum, and I am in college studying to be a special education teacher. So, I am involved from both the parent and the educator standpoint.

My son is also king of watching everything I eat! He gives me the side eye when I don't share my 'special food items'. Ha!

Chun Wong said...

I've only just found your blog and thoroughly enjoyed reading about your two sons. I think that many people still have stereotyped views of autism and don't realize how broad the autism spectrum is - autistic people aren't all like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, and your blog really highlights this.

Really great blog!

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