"Clever Carter": A Story About Autism

"Clever Carter": A Story About Autism

Carter, my son, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 3.5 years old. As devastating as it was, we weren’t completely blindsided by his diagnosis. The waitlist for his assessment was almost an entire year.  We received a call at the 10 month mark, due to a cancellation on the other end. That gave us plenty of time to do our own research and come to our own conclusions. The year following his diagnosis was a year of transition. Not so much for Carter, but for my husband and I. We didn’t disclose this new diagnosis to many people. It was overwhelming and we didn’t know where to start. The vision we had of Carter’s future was completely adrift. Not that it would have played out exactly as we had imagined, but the typical dream of university, marriage, and grandkids now seemed insurmountable. That was hard to swallow for me. We felt isolated with this new life. Like a whirlwind we spent that first year juggling specialist appointments, lab tests, biomedical treatment, speech therapy, occupational therapy, ultrasounds and a muscle biopsy to eliminate any contributing factors. We also rearranged our finances to accommodate the new expense of private ABA therapy.   That first year was tough.  It felt as though no one really understood what we were going through and I was frustrated at the lack of awareness in our community. I didn’t want to talk about Carter’s autism with anyone other than our family. I wasn’t in denial or embarrassed, I just felt as though it wasn’t anybody’s business. I considered myself an “advocate," but more of a private one.

Then last year as autism awareness month was approaching something clicked with me. How can I be angry at society for their lack of awareness, if I myself was unwilling to talk about it? What could I do to help educate these individuals?

My first instinct was to start with Carter’s preschool class. The words “early intervention” entered my mind, and it wasn’t in reference to Carter’s treatments. The age range was from 2.5 to 5 years, which seems a little young, but they were old enough to know that Carter was “different." A few kids had already asked me why he flicked his fingers (stim) and why he didn’t talk very much.

I started my autism awareness search on Google. I compiled a list of autism resource books for children and headed to the library to seek out the books on my list. I wasted 20 minutes looking for the books myself, and then I smartened up and went straight to the librarian. I read off my list as she checked the data base. Of that list, only half of the books were still available. When I asked why, the librarian said they were too old. (Apparently books retire after a certain span of time.) She collected the books from the other half of the list for me. There weren’t many. I flipped through them, but I wasn’t convinced that they were right for the age group that I wanted to share with. I went home discouraged.

By the next morning, I had mustered up some optimism to try my search again. I headed to the local bookstores to see if they had anything different to offer. Again, I left empty handed. Nothing was the right fit. Then it came to me, I’m not going to find this “perfect fit”, unless I write it myself.  So that’s what I did. I headed home on a mission to write a story. I never intended for the story to be read outside of Carter’s classroom. I was determined to expand autism awareness to those in his immediate social surroundings, but I wasn’t looking at the bigger picture. His teachers, therapists and other parents convinced me that the story would be a cherished resource to any family or educator that is trying to spread autism awareness and understanding.

Their belief in the story and the message it brings is what convinced me to pursue publishing.  My story “Clever Carter” educates about some of the common behaviours and misconceptions of Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though it was initially contrived for young children, it presents valuable information to anyone unfamiliar with the disorder. Seeing as each individual child is unique in their attributes, behaviours and abilities, there is a questions portion available at the back of the book that will help to relate the story to additional children on the spectrum. My motivation in sharing this story is to expand autism awareness and understanding, which will ultimately lead to acceptance of children with ASD in the community.

“Clever Carter” will be available to the public in July 2012.


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Written by: Sara Park See other articles by Sara Park
About the Author:

Sara was born and raised in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. She moved to Burlington, Ontario in 2007 where she currently resides. Mother of two, her oldest Carter, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder in April 2010 at the age of 3.5 years old. Overwhelmed with information and an overall absence of understanding in society, “Clever Carter” was inspired by her son as a resource to other families facing the same struggle and to expand Autism Awareness throughout the community.

www.clevercarter.ca

Follow me on Twitter: @CRCRsMommy

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