Friday, July 5, 2013

Night and Day

My boyz are as different as night and day.  We've all heard the expression ad nauseum "If you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." but even the most jaded person in the world would think that two boyz from the same gene pool, raised in the same environment with the same diagnosis would have more things in common than not in common.

I'm here to provide evidence to the contrary.

Both my boys have communication problems.  Joe didn't talk at all until he was almost 3 and then started spouting words and phrases from books at a phenomenal pace although comprehension is still an issue at 18.  Alan, on the other hand, seemed to develop typically until he was about 2 and then rapidly regressed and seemed to stagnate.  Grrrrr  Just when you think you have this autism figured out, the second one is completely different from the first. 

What was difficult for Joe (potty training) happened almost overnight with Alan.

What worked so well for Joe (ABA) had almost no effect on Alan -- he just ritualized things. 

Alan goes barefoot every chance he gets (even in this picture from last December when there is still ice in the raingauge) but Joe puts on his sandals every time he needs to step on the grass because of his sensitivity issues.

Joe always has something in his hands in his toddler pictures (usually several somethings) but Alan always wanted his hands free to climb.

Joe has always been sound sensitive.  He hated fire alarms at school, he used to wear noise muffling headphones for watching fireworks (and we weren't that close) and he still wears them for cutting the grass.  Alan likes making the most piercing noises known to man but doesn't seem to care what sort of noises are in the environment.

Even for things that they both loved (their wooden toy trains) they played completely differently.  Joe would carry around a handful most of the time but when he played trains, it was to run them along the track stimming out of the corner of his eye.  Alan likes to make very long continuous trains and crash them off a high surface.

Joe is unbelievably gentle for a boy.  He doesn't like violence and has only lashed out physically a handful of times.  Alan came out of the crib headbutting.  I have a very vivid memory of telling him no about something when he was barely walking and him turning around and headbutting Joe in the back.

They both love swimming, but Alan loves the ocean and waves and Joe is skittish of critters and prefers swimming pools and his mask.

Joe used echolalia and scripting to start talking.  He would take a phrase he had heard in a book or a movie and apply it to a different situation to come up with an expression that was most times appropriate.  Alan just scripts for the stim.

Alan is a complete daredevil and climbs to the top of everything while Joe is a little bit scared of heights.

Alan has been known to elope on more than one occasion (going so far as to attempt to walk to his aunt's house 5 miles away), but Joe just leaves the situation and then comes back when he has calmed down.

Joe is a complete pack rat while Alan loves to "clean up" and has thrown out numerous things we then had to fetch out of the trash including silverware and unwanted toys.

Joe has always loved crafts of all sorts, but paper/pencil activities are torture for Alan.

Joe always slept like the dead but Alan had a more difficult time falling asleep and tended to wake up at first light.  This has improved since he has become a teenager but he is still our usual weekend alarm clock.  Trust me, it is impossible to sleep through a 160 lb. kid back flipping out of bed on the floor above you!

Alan is very motivated by "task completion".  At school, they frequently use finishing a job as the reward for doing the job itself.  We joke that this is the reason Alan gets in the ocean and starts swimming for the horizon -- he has to get to the other side!  Joe on the other hand, loves to start projects ("I am going to type all the numbers from 1 to 1,000,000.") and a few days later he loses his motivation. 

So for those people out there that do not like the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) changes to the definition of autism, I would like to point out that I think in many ways this will be more accurate.  Under the DSM-IV, both my boyz are "PDD-NOS".  This does not even begin to cover their complex differences.  At least with DSM-5 they will be level 1 (Joe) and level 3 (Alan).

Rob Growski of Lost and Tired said, "The most dangerous mistake in Autism is generalization."  He's got that right!


  1. Julie, I love seeing how you describe how incredible yet different your boys are. It is weird, because I think one of the hardest part of autism is it seems to be used to generalize. People just do not see that the spectrum means just that...purple to red and everything in between. Thanks for highlighting what that means.

  2. I love hearing about your boys. I can see how yours are like day and night. I also have two that are on the spectrum and in some ways so very different and other ways so much the same. William was born with things I noticed from birth that were autistic and Zeke did indeed start regressing the day after his shots at almost three years old when we finally broke down to allow them. Zeke is much more severe in his issues than William bless his heart. Your boys are both wonderful. You and hubby have done a great job in helping them to bloom into wonderful young men. God is so good. Loved this post. It was very informative!

  3. Thanks, Kerri! That was the exact point. :-)
    Susan, it is funny how those same extremes seem to find their way into families. :-)

  4. Enjoy reading about your boys. Your insights on the complexities of autism are helpful and inspiring. Thank you.