Last week, I was interviewed for an article about autism in girls by a reporter from The Huffington Post. Here's the article--- link. Being interviewed was an interesting experience! It was much more nerve-wracking than I had ever pictured it being, not because of the reporter, who was very nice, but because I think I do better writing things down than talking about them live. I can think about what I write here, but when talking, that internal edit has to be done much more quickly, and I kept worrying I'd say something wrong. We talked about a lot of things, but the quotes in the article of course were mainly about the thrust of the topic of the article---how autism in girls is rarer and sometimes less easy to see. I told the reporter before the interview I wasn't sure I was the ideal person to talk to, because Janey's autism isn't subtle. Strangers on the street can diagnose her. But the article is actually making me think more about why Janey wasn't diagnosed until she was past 3. I don't think she was autistic before that. I think she regressed. But I know, from what I allow myself to think about before she regressed, that there were subtle little differences in her. She talked much more to me than to others, and even close friends have told me they questioned how well I said she could talk. She had a few odd behaviors, and once in a long while, I'd have a moment of wondering---is all okay here? And there was her very, very late walking. She didn't walk until she was past 2. Was that just slow physical development, or something more? It's very possible that her being a girl gave me just that extra bit of blindness to what was coming.
One thing I did want to clarify from the article is it saying Janey is non-verbal. I didn't say that to the reporter, but I can understand why she might have thought it (if she didn't read my blog much). Janey is certainly low-functioning, and a lot of autistic people who are low-functioning are also non-verbal. But Janey does talk. She is not really very FUNCTIONALLY verbal, though. Her talking is of a limited kind. She requests things, which is great. Most of her talk is in this formula "I want bacon. Bacon, please. Bacon" You can put anything else in the place of bacon, but she say it in that same way every time. The rest of her talk is mostly delayed echolalia. She recites parts of videos, TV shows and sometimes things people have said live to her. Sometimes, she does this in a way I call in my head "cut and paste" talking. She picks from her store of lines something that has relevance to what is going on. For example, if she's made a mess and we are cleaning it up, she says a line from Kipper "I can't play with you right now. I'm cleaning up YOUR mess!" Or if she's in a hurry to get something to eat, and we are taking too long, she says "Wait for the milk! Wait for the milk!", another Kipper line. Janey also sings a great deal. Her singing has never been affected by her autism, in that when she regressed in other ways, it didn't seem to affect the musical part of her brain. She can sing probably thousands of songs, in perfect tune and with all the lyrics. It's never done on command. She's like a iPod set on random, with a song she might have heard years ago suddenly popping up. The exception is Christmas carols, which if I start one, or even just say the name, she'll usually jump in and sing. Her love for Christmas music is a huge part of her life.
If you are reading this blog for the first time after finding it from the HP article, welcome!! I am thrilled and amazed, always, to have people from all over the world reading what I started out as just kind of an on-line diary of life with Janey post-diagnosis. It's turned into something more---a way for me, and I hope for others, to feel less alone, to know there are others out there with autistic girls, all of us doing the best we can. I hope if you are new to this sometimes lonely journey, you will find a place here to help just a little. I'm thinking of all of you, and, on this pre-Thanksgiving day, thankful to all who journey along with me.