I have the distinct privilege of welcoming Taylor Morris to my blog today. Taylor is an amazing young girl, who has Aspergers Syndrome, and is bringing awareness to the value of self-advocating for children and young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Her insightful videos give answers to parents desperate to understand where their child’s mind is, why it goes there and how to reach them. I encourage you to take a minute and view Autism through the eyes of this exceptional young woman.
I have to admit that I am a little nervous to ask Taylor all of my questions – I think that is because I have never sat down and asked my ‘autism’ questions to a person with autism. I am overwhelmingly thankful that Taylor and her mother have agreed to have her participate in this interview. A big thank you to both of them for allowing me such an invaluable insight into autism and on behalf of me and my readers, thank you for allowing us the opportunity to better understand our children!
There really isn't anything better than hearing it directly from the source, is there?
Welcome Taylor – thank you for joining me here on HLW3B! I have been intrigued by the videos on your website (www.meettaylormorris.com), discussing everything from your insider point of view of a therapy session as a preschooler to explaining your own world in calm detail. I think as a parent of a child with autism (HFA), I am mostly impressed with the confident and self-assured way you have of expressing yourself. To what do you attribute your ability to be so self aware?
I think I started being self-aware when my parents would remind me of the consequences of my actions. Having my parents tell me that something comes off as rude forces me to realize that I am one person who has to learn to function in a world with many others. This creates a self-awareness of my actions. My parents comments and hard lessons on the playground nudged me to realize the way I act and how present myself has much larger implications then I had previously thought. They taught me that being myself is much more then just doing whatever I want. From here I began to grow to be the person I am; I say what I truly believe but I calculate the implications of my actions as well. I believe this is what makes me come off as a mature self-aware person.
It has been argued by many that children with High Functioning Autism/Aspergers shouldn’t be told they have autism – that somehow labeling the child will make it worse. You seem to be an argument for the opposite. How has the knowledge that the world perceives you as different shaped you thus far? Does ‘knowing’ make it easier to learn or access the tools you need?
I have always viewed myself as just another unique person. People have always perceived my as different even though to this day few people I know recognize I have Asperger’s. I just learned to accept the fact I was different and if anyone had a problem they could bugger off. What I find harmful in not telling a high functioning autistic person that they have autism is that they may believe that they are “messed up” for being different. A person with Asperger’s will never be like a neurotypical person and if they walk though life thinking they are one they will get progressively lower self-esteem every time they are reminded they are different. People with Asperger’s always want a reason and if they don’t have a reason for being different they will panic and assume they are messed up. Not telling a child that they are different sets them up for depression and failure because they cannot comprehend and adjust without knowing what it is that is different about them.
Many kids like mine are first diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder, as the primary explanation (or at least the base) for their challenges. In my experience, it is often the sensory issues that make kids ‘stand out’ to their peers at school. Is this a problem for you? If so, how do you manage your sensory needs at school without drawing unwanted attention?
Fortunately, I don’t have many sensory problems but they are a concern. A good example is fire alarms; they scare me and hurt my ears. Most of the time teachers will tell the class in advance exactly when the fire alarm is going to go off. If I have a problem I don’t usually draw attention because I have learned not to panic if I have a problem. I generally go the bathroom if I am trying to avoid a smell or unpleasant sound. However, if I can’t avoid my sensory issues though I just try not to show my discomfort.
It is no secret that children with autism struggle with social issues and my son Gabriel is no exception. When I first asked him about writing this interview with me, his immediate question was, “I have been losing friends. Let’s ask her how I can make friends and keep them.” How do you *keep* friends as a teenager – when everything at your age is still based on fitting in and not standing out?
I have had issues like these my entire life. Most of my friendship woes came from two things. First, I lost a lot of friend when I was younger by being bossy and rude. I didn’t mean to but as I got more comfortable with these friends I would let my guard down more and more and I would stop caring what they thought. This often killed my relationships because they would get tired of me being rude all the time. My advice would be to always keep a certain respect for them no matter how close you are. The other cause of many lost friends was my inability to act within societies standards. It’s sad but many great people still have certain judgments. I would act out in weird ways and many people would avoid me because of this. My greatest advice is to always treat friends like something you appreciate without overdoing it and coming off needy.
As my boys grow older, I am much more aware of how Gabriel’s differences are perceived by his brothers. My main concern is that I do everything I can to make all three of my boys feel loved and connected to both of their parents – but equally as important, to each other. What do you suggest I can do to support their brotherly bond as their interests and social lives take separate paths?
I would suggest that they spend time together doing something that Gabriel and the siblings have roughly equal skill/interest in. If one group is better then the other there is competitive conflict but if they all have about the same ability then they can focus on having a good time and they can bond on an even plane. I would recommend activities were there is no serious consequences for winning or losing like tag football, board games or video games. Just make sure they all spend time together but don’t force it too much. Gabriel and the others will pick up on it and will feel awkward. Just set things so that they can bond but also allow them to divide and grow. They will be adults before you know it.
We as parents are always after the next great thing that will help our kids. I believe that sometimes all of these experts and opinions overshadow the value of plain old good parenting. Tell me something that your parents did or taught you that was exceptionally helpful– a parenting tip that me and my readers can hold onto and try with our kids.
Something my parents did that I really appreciate is when they treated me like any other kid. Obviously I had special needs but I always picked up the vibe that they had dreams for me and wanted to prepare me as such. They were loving but were not afraid to create consequences for my actions like any other kid. They wanted me to have a future and acted like I was going to have one, even if they weren’t sure. This gave me a lot of confidence and the strength to try to overcome my struggles. I would also like to add that a parent’s eternal love is so appreciated even if your kid doesn’t show it. The strength the parents of special needs kids is amazing, beyond my imagination.
Well said Taylor -- The strength of parents of special needs kids is amazing -- Thank you.
My best wishes for you, as you follow what life has in store for you. You have a bright future ahead – one that is obviously brighter than you know! Thank you again; it has truly been my pleasure.
I could easily write another dozen questions, but maybe I’ll just attend one of her webinars instead! For those reading, you can find the dates/times of her webinars and view her videos at http://www.meettaylormorris.com/.
Please feel free to leave comments for Taylor here --
Here's to a great close to our Autism Awareness Month series!