My Authors Give Back guest today is Kassandra Lamb. I’m excited to welcome Kass back to my blog. She previously did a wonderful post for me, Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love?, which continues to get viewed weekly.
As a retired psychologist, Kassandra Lamb knows it’s not good to hear voices in your head, unless they’re the voices of your characters and you’re a writer. When Kass isn’t at her computer, dreaming up new challenges for the people in her head, she spends time with her husband and her dog, Amelia. She’s a ‘reverse snowbird,’ living in Florida ten months of the year, and spending her summers in her native Maryland.
One of the greatest thrills in life is becoming a grandparent. As one of my friends once said, “How can you not love the child of your child? He or she is doubly precious.”
When my oldest grandchild was three months old, I helped his parents pack and move their household across state lines, where my son had a new job waiting. Amidst the boxes and chaos in their living room, my grandson lay in his Pack-and-Play, playing with his feet (it always amazes me how flexible babies are!)
Grandma paused in her packing to grab the camera. I got off one shot by sneaking up on him. Then he saw me. He let go of his feet and gave me a huge toothless grin that said clearer than words, “Hi, Grandma!” His eyes were sparkling and looking right at me.
At 12 months, he was on schedule with talking–saying a dozen words, including “Grandma.” But by 15 months, the sparkle was starting to fade. Eye contact was less frequent. And he was talking less, not more. When he was 20 months old, my bright and beautiful grandson was diagnosed with autism.
I’m sure any parent or grandparent can imagine how heartbreaking it is to watch a child you love become more and more trapped inside themselves.
For the central problem for kids with autistic spectrum disorders (which include other related developmental disorders such as Asperger’s) is that their brains don’t process the social world very well. They don’t pick up on social and emotional cues. They don’t imitate words or actions well (except as mimicry).
The glazed-over look that we associate with autism is caused by overwhelm. The child isn’t able to process the rapidly changing array of sounds and movements going on around them. In self defense, the child spaces out, and may use repetitive behaviors to create a self-soothing, trance-like state. They may also throw temper tantrums, out of frustration because they don’t know how to interact with this confusing world around them.
Years ago, it was believed that autistic children didn’t want social interaction, especially touch. It was also believed that they were mentally retarded. Neither of these beliefs is true. My little grandson is very affectionate, and he’s shown many signs of being a bright child, before and since his diagnosis. But there is no way to truly assess his intelligence, because the IQ tests designed for typically-developing children don’t accurately reflect the intelligence of ASD children.
Twenty-five percent of autistic kids never learn to talk, although they can learn to communicate in other ways. My precious boy is using PECS cards (short for Picture Exchange Communication System), along with several dozen nouns and a few verbs, to express his desires (he’s almost five years old now). He has made tremendous progress and I am so proud of him, and of his parents for all they go through to deal with him and to help him learn and grow. They are using every resource they can find. These resources would be prohibitively expensive to my son and his wife, and to most middle-class families, if not for the assistance provided by state and federal programs, and by non-profit groups.
There are many wonderful organizations out there to help kids with ASD and their families. But I have chosen to highlight Autism Speaks. Founded just seven years ago, this organization has grown to be one of the largest of its kind. They provide advocacy, hook families up with the resources they need, and, most important of all, they fund research seeking a better understanding of the causes of ASD and better ways to treat it.
To see just how much the right interventions can accomplish, check out this video in which singer, Katy Perry, accompanies 11-year-old Jodi Dipiazzo, singing Ms. Perry’s hit, Firework. Jodi has autism and her parents once believed she would never talk. But just look at her now!
For the month of February, I’m donating the royalties from my latest release, Celebrity Status, A Kate Huntington Mystery, to Autism Speaks. So please purchase a copy, either e-book or paperback. I’ve gotten great feedback on this book so I know you’ll be getting an enjoyable read, and you’ll be helping children like my grandson live a fuller life!
Here is the link to Autism Speaks ( www.autismspeaks.org ). If you’d like to donate directly, that would be totally awesome!
Thank you so much for the wonderful post and for sharing your grandson with us, Kassandra! As the great-aunt of children who have been diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome (“the most common known genetic cause of autism or autism spectrum disorders”), I can certainly attest to the challenges involved. But I can also attest to the love and affection shown by them. They really are the sweetest children. I suppose I could be a little biased. Nah.
And how generous of you to donate your royalties from CELEBRITY STATUS for this month to Autism Speaks! I haven’t read this one yet and just purchased it.
For those that haven’t read any of Kass’s books, I can tell you, you won’t be disappointed. I’ve read the others and can’t wait to read this one, which is the 4th book in the Kate Huntington series. All of the books are stand-alone novels and you don’t have to have read the previous ones to enjoy this one. Just look at the creepy cover! Isn’t that awesome?
Kate Huntington is remarried and life is good, until her new husband’s private investigating agency attracts its first celebrity client–a pop singer whose anonymous stalker has a twisted concept of love. Before he realizes just how twisted, Skip involves first his psychotherapist wife and then their lawyer friend, Rob Franklin, in the case. Soon they are being hounded by the paparazzi. As they try to cope with this onslaught of unwanted attention and an unrelenting stalker willing to commit murder, Kate and Skip must face the reality that you can’t always keep those you love from harm.
Your turn…do you know anyone with autism? Ever benefitted from services through Austism Speaks? And wow! Isn’t Jodi Dipiazzo amazing???
As always – thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: I have no connection with any charity mentioned in the Authors Give Back segment of the blog unless noted. I have not personally researched any charity mentioned unless otherwise noted. If you plan to donate to ANY charity (mentioned here or elsewhere) you should research it thoroughly and decide for yourself if it is a legitimate and worthy cause.