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Translate Autism: Making The Disorder A Gift Not A Curse

Translate Autism: Making The Disorder A Gift Not A Curse

Recognize the Challenge

It was the night of the 4th of November, and a child was born. The boy was seemingly healthy at birth. 2 years later, the boy’s father was given the possible diagnosis, and his unbelief became denial. Common belief was that his son was autistic. One year later, this question haunted the boy’s father, “What is perfect about autism?” He, like many fathers, didn’t know how to translate autism into a positive thing at all, so he imagined himself to be wrong in his thinking. “Who would ask such an insensitive question?” he would ponder.

Today, being much different, I gladly admit that I am the man who initiated that question, and I am the father of an autistic son, named Malik. When that question “What’s perfect about autism?”…arose in my mind concerning his diagnosis, and “…only a monster could ask something so cruel.”

Depression instantly took hold, and I pushed the idea into the dark quarters of my mind. Simultaneously, I blocked out the sickening thought whenever it came to light. I was broken, and consumed by the mental wars in which I was entrenched.

Once the denial subsided and I recognized the issue, these selfish questions took hold in my mind, “Why my family? Why me?” Initially at least, I was bitter, disbelieving, and disgruntled over the cards dealt to my young son, but ironically, the haunting question that I had first hated: “What is perfect about autism?”, drove me to find its answer. A challenge that communication, which is the foundation of the answer, taught in this article.

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Cultivation, and the controversial practice that I call “Clipping the Wings of the Disorderly”, both being explained in full detail at a later date, brought the answer. Like weavers, they intertwined my unraveling family together.

Accepting Autism

The ability to recognize something and having the ability to accept it are two very different abilities. I recognized that my son is autistic. The first time the actual words came out of my mouth, I wept bitterly. Today, voicing that reality since having accepted the truth, brings me peace of mind. This fact empowered me to look at the challenge with a better attitude. Autism, while affecting individuals in different ways, is actually a communication disorder.

My entire life, I had always equated autism to mental retardation and low I.Q. To be clear, I was very wrong in that assumption. In fact, most autistic cases don’t affect intelligence whatsoever. This realization was the most eye opening, or at least I thought it was.

That realization brought another, and I began to realize why I really did not want my son to be autistic. To be frank, I didn’t want to have a dumb son. My philosophy on what value means was so selfish and offensive. I thought of my own son, whom I am supposed to unconditionally love, as a burden almost. If anyone, I was the one who needed treatment or specialized help. It took being thrown that far out of my comfort zone to realize my grievous mental disorder – Selfishness. Even still, there are greater realizations to find.

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Before I looked into understanding the disorder, the catalyst to my change was the mind-altering account of one of the greatest treasures in the human race. Her name is Temple Grandin. Later, you will read the interpretation of the story of Temple Grandin that author and historian, Robert Greene, presents in the instant classic, Mastery. Her life is a triumph in perseverance, and a testament to the fact that the autistic are viewed, treated, and at times, even raised incorrectly. Once I learned of her truly awe-inspiring biography, I was moved to learn more of this misunderstood disorder.

Before being made privy to the fact that autism is a communications problem, my mental fabric was torn with ignorance. Thankfully, today when I remember my previous self, who thought the way I did, I no longer recognize him. When I finally caught a glimpse of my repulsive reflection, my instinct was to get it away from me. Much like that cold, blinding fog, being chased away by the morning star, my selfishness has been pushed out. With the veil lifted, at last I envisioned what for many families is an ally, my family’s foremost foe – Communication.

Communication is Key

Considering that communication is the underlying symptom of the autism disorder, I made a decision. If this disorder is going to cripple my son’s ability to verbalize his inner thoughts, our family’s mission will be to focus on learning communication to the best of our ability. The hope was this: if we could communicate on a higher level we could 1) Compensate for some of his main shortcomings, and 2) As we learn and evolve, although his evolution will be slower, he too will come to adapt to his weaknesses. My family quickly accepted the new focus on communication, but I’ve always had a tendency to dream big. Becoming a master of language is harder than it sounds. While we were learning, we still had our moments of frustration and misunderstanding. Interesting enough, Malik became the most patient person among us. To this day, there’s probably only one that I would consider to have transcended previous language barriers within our family unit – only Malik.

When presented the opportunity, my sons and I have a morning routine we perform together. Our ritual begins with a brisk walk starting just before daybreak. Malik, on this morning, was 5 years old and still non-verbal. At dawn, Malik’s ability to communicate shone as evidently as the sunrise. I watched him thoroughly explain his mood and desires without using words. His use of non-verbal cues, his body language, and his facial expressions, all shifting from sequences to simultaneous actions is like an art in and of itself. My autistic son taught me how to translate autism from negative to positive. His gift allowed him to do that, instead he would transform a disorder, into an instrument, one he practices continually.

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To strangers, his attempts and interactions make little sense. Those who know my son will testify that Malik is capable of communicating deeply detailed emotions, non-verbally. Everyone who knows him describes his charm, his innocent humor, and his stubborn streaks. They would also relate that Malik has an obsessive love for animals, and for building of any sort. What few see is the determination. This determination, an inner-strength, is often overlooked. He sees himself as able, no matter what, he will not give up. Verbal communication will not elude him forever. I am sure once his tongue is loosened and he merges body language with spoken communication, nothing will stand in his way. Then, what we all called a disorder will prove to be a gift. A trying fire, if you will, manifesting gold of greater purity.

Temple Grandin: The Role Model

Temple Grandin was forged in that same fire. She came forth as a peculiar treasure, with a worth far above rubies. Historian, Robert Greene, sheds light on Miss Grandin’s life in his masterpiece, Mastery. Mr. Greene paints a heartfelt picture from which the autistic and their parents will undoubtedly draw not only strength, but inspiration as well. In Mr. Greene’s words:

“Some people do not become aware of inclinations or future career paths in their childhood, but instead are made painfully aware of their limitations. […] Nobody faced this fate more powerfully than Temple Grandin. In 1950, at the age of three, she was diagnosed with autism. She had yet to make any progress in learning language, and it was thought that this would remain her condition. […] But her mother wanted to try one last option, […] she sent Temple to a speech therapist, who miraculously, slowly managed to teach her language.”

“Despite this improvement, Temple’s future still appeared limited at best. Her mind functioned in a different way she thought in terms of images not words. […] She was not good at socializing with other children, who often made fun of her for her differences.”

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“Whenever she felt troubled she instinctively retreated to two activities that were comfortable to her: interacting with animals and building things with her hands. […] Several years later she found herself pursuing a master’s degree in Animal Sciences at Arizona State University. […] Her professors there could not understand such an interest, and told her it was not possible. Never being one to take no for an answer, she found professors in another department who would sponsor her. She did her study, and in the process caught a glimpse of her Life’s Task. […] Slowly, with her visual sense of design and engineering, she taught herself the rudiments of the business. She expanded her services to designing more humane slaughterhouses and systems for managing farm animals.”

“With this career solidly in place, she proceeded to go further: she became a writer; she returned to the university as a professor; she transformed herself into a gifted lecturer on animals and autism. Somehow she had managed to overcome all of the seemingly insurmountable obstructions in her path and find her way to the Life’s Task that suited her to perfection.”

In my eyes, Temple Grandin demonstrates one ability strongest: The Ability to Translate Autism. After my mind recognized that my son was autistic, I then journeyed through my inner darkness. Truth and understanding brought acceptance, like a lamp of light, causing the darkness to flee and show me what I had to do. First and foremost I had to answer the question, “What is perfect about autism?” The answer is this: The disorder is perfect because, it makes those it challenges, and those in close relation to the challenged to translate autism from seemingly a disability, to the power it can become. Thankfully, my son’s gift of autism proved to be the answer all along. Making use of what we were given galvanized that answer. Though we have only begun to learn the first aspect of this three part translation, parents, caregivers, friends and family alike must experiment with these three helping hands. Communication, cultivation and “Clipping the Wings of the Disorderly” in order to learn the necessary translation.

Do not receive the curse of autism; receive the gift and the freedom, not the failure the “disorder” brings.

More by this author

Key Questions: Why Not Me? The Healthy Alternative Leaving a Legacy: 10 Tangible Traits of Timeless Icons 3 Ways Towards Finding Out How to Get Real Self-Help Translate Autism: Making The Disorder A Gift Not A Curse Worry to Win: How to Worry the Right Way

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Published on September 28, 2018

The Top 21 Kids Websites to Teach Responsibility and Life Skills

The Top 21 Kids Websites to Teach Responsibility and Life Skills

Letting your children navigate the internet on their own is like throwing them into the Wild West for them to fend for themselves. The internet can be a dangerous place for children if they are on the wrong websites.

We all want to protect our children, so knowing the websites that are safe for our kids is of utmost importance. What we also want as parents are websites that teach our children life skills and responsibility.

There are great websites, geared for children, that will engage your child and have them learning at the same time. Below are the top 21 websites for teaching children life skills and responsibility. All of the sites have been vetted and approved by Common Sense Media, a non-profit organization whose mission is to “empower parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information, trusted advice, and innovative tools to help them harness the power of media and technology as a positive force in all kids’ lives.”

Always monitor children when they are using the internet. Parental guidance for age appropriateness is recommended when your child uses any of the websites listed below. What is appropriate for an eight year old is not always appropriate or suited for a four year old.

These 21 websites can have your kids engaged, entertained, learning, and developing new skills.  Most of them are intended to engage children of various ages, so look for the content on each site that is appropriate for your child’s age and ability level.

1. PBS Kids

    This website is loaded with games, educational activities and videos that will please both child and parent.

    This site engages children in activities and videos that teach them about citizenship, different cultures, geography, global awareness, hypothesis testing, investigating, self-reflection, personal growth, empathy, respect for others, labeling feelings and more.

    For example, the Webonauts Internet Academy teaches kids how to be safe online and Wild Kratts teaches kids about different habitats around the world.

    There is a great deal of content on this website. Head to their site today to discover what your child could be missing out on!

    2. Curious World

      This site is geared for kids ages 2-7. The main character guiding kids on an educational journey is Curious George. If your child is a fan of the books or cartoon, then you should check out this website.

      There are eight key areas of learning covered on this website including math, reading, and science. This website makes learning fun with games and child appropriate online activities. It also includes hands on activities for parents to do with their child.

      Activities such as crafting, cooking, and art projects with detailed instructions are provided, so that parents can interact with their children to build important life skills.

      3. News-O-Matic

        This is a news website geared for kids. The content helps them learn about the world and its happenings, in a website that is made for kids.

        There are daily editions of which include new articles every day on a variety of subjects and topics. The articles are written to grab the attention of a child reader. You will find that even reluctant readers find this site entertaining.

        If you have a passion for the news and keeping up with the changing world, then you can ignite this passion in your children by getting them started on the News-O-Matic website.

        Some of the skills that kids can learn while utilizing this site include reading comprehension, increased vocabulary, geography recognition, critical thinking, perspective taking, reasoning, and cultural awareness.

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        4. National Geographic Kids

          The National Geographic Kids website teaches kids about animals, space, the natural world, dinosaurs, insects and more. They use games, videos, and online activities to connect children with learning about our natural world.

          There are valuable skills reinforced in the online activities including the use of logic, memory, applying information, investigation, problem solving, and imagination.

          There is a great deal of free content on this website that can be utilized without being a paid subscriber.

          5. ABC Mouse

            This website is geared for children ages 2-7. This is a learning website that covers the subjects of reading, math, social studies, science, health, writing, art, and music.

            Some of the skills that are taught on this site through the website activities include following directions, letter recognition, word recognition, phonics, reading comprehension, speaking, memorization, solving puzzles, measurement, goal achievement, rhythm, and more.

            This website boats that it contains a comprehensive curriculum with more than 8,500 learning activities. It is a great tool for preschoolers preparing for kindergarten.

            There are also lessons and activities that are more advanced beyond kindergarten.

            This is a subscription based program. It has won many awards because of its comprehensive nature and successful curriculum.

            6. FunBrain

              This educational website has a great deal of free content, so your child can access hundreds of activities without a subscription.

              There are games and activities for kids to play while they learn at the same time. Kids will use the following skills while playing on this website: problem solving, puzzle solving, reading, vocabulary, math, and reasoning.

              What makes this site unique is that there are online versions of popular kid’s books including the “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

              7. Nourish Interactive

                This website is geared toward nutrition for children. It is a free website.

                There are games, printable activities, recipes and tools on this site that teach children about nutrition.

                The goal of the site is to help children learn to make healthy eating choices at a young age, so they can have this skill for life. The site also teaches about cooking, with many healthy recipes available free.

                8. Arthur Family Health

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                  Arthur is a favorite cartoon character on PBS. The Arthur Family Health website is for kids to learn about resilience, fitness, peanut allergies, asthma, and more.

                  Health is not an easy topic to address with children, but this website does a great job by utilizing games, videos, and activities that are age appropriate and fun.

                  9. Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

                    This website uses the popular PBS cartoon character Daniel Tiger. This website has games, activities, and videos geared toward younger children.

                    The skills that are taught on this site include expressing emotions appropriately, eating healthy, making friends, brushing teeth, dealing with disappointment and toilet training.

                    There are stories with a narrator for kids to listen to, simple games to play, videos to watch, and songs to engage younger children.

                    It is an entertaining site for younger kids and the topics teach great life skills for little ones! This is a free website.

                    10. BrainPop

                      This website is geared for children in the fourth grade and older. It is a paid subscription site. However, there are some games and videos that are available free on this site.

                      This website helps kids academically. There are also life skills and lessons addressed on the site. They address even the most sensitive and tough topics such as war, terrorism, sexual development, and alcoholism.

                      Reviewers of the site say that this website is useful for kids all the way through high school.

                      11. Arcademic Skill Builder

                        This website is geared toward helping young students acquire math, language arts, English and critical-thinking skills. This site is filled with games and activities to keep kids entertained while learning.

                        This website has a strong emphasis on math skills including addition, subtraction, counting, division, fractions, money, multiplication, ratios, and shapes.

                        If your child is struggling with their math skills, then this site can be of great help. Many of the games and activities are free.

                        12. Cyberchase

                          This website is based on the PBS show Cyberchase. It is geared toward children who can read or are learning to read. It helps kids acquire critical thinking and reading skills.

                          The site is filled with free games, videos and activities that keep kids entertained, engaged, and learning. Some of the games get kids to think about real life situations to utilize their problem solving skills. Brainstorming is a another skill that is utilized on this site. It is a free website.

                          13. Fact Monster

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                            This website was created in partnership with educational professional. It is a site that is a great help for children completing homework. They can find facts on dozens of subjects on this site along with dictionary and atlas.

                            The content is more than browsing and providing information. There are games and activities to entertain kids on the site while they learn. Interesting to note, the site contains more than 30,000 short biographies!

                            This website is a game changer for home work time. Some of the skills that kids apply on this site include problem solving, thinking, reasoning, and self-direction.

                            14. Maggie’s Earth Adventures

                              This website gets kids thinking and learning about the world and its vast ecosystems. It is a free site that teaches kids about the earth.

                              Real life situations are presented in short videos. Then kids play games that touch on the subjects of animals, earth, recycling, and injustice.

                              Some of the skills that they can acquire on this site include cultural understanding, global awareness, reading comprehension, spelling, vocabulary, investigation, prediction, and thinking critically.

                              15. PBS Lab

                                PBS Lab is funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. This grant requires them to research the games and their effectiveness in helping kids learn real skills. The result is a website where kids actually learn while they have fun.

                                This site teaches kids the skills they need to be successful in school. The website is useful for kids ages three and up. Some of the skills that kids learn on this site include math, reading, spelling, word recognition, measuring, and pattern recognition. This site is free!

                                16. Sesame Street

                                  This website is based on the TV program. Kids are entertained by their favorite Muppets in games, songs, podcasts, videos, and activities.

                                  This site can be used by children ages two and up, so it is one of the best options for very young children.

                                  Some of the skills taught on this site include empathy, labeling emotions, brushing teeth, hygiene, addition, subtraction, counting, measuring, recognizing shapes, understanding cultural differences, following directions, letter recognition, word recognition, spelling, respecting others, asking questions, problem solving, use of imagination, and making new creations.

                                  This site has a great deal of value for parents who want their children to be learning practical life skills while they are on the internet being entertained. This website is completely free!

                                  17. Star Fall

                                    This educational website is geared for children ages four and up. Although this is a subscription website, there is content that users can try out before purchasing.

                                    The website is run through a non profit organization and the price for subscription to the site is low because they want to make the content available widespread to benefit many children.

                                    Some of the skills that kids can learn on this website are addition, subtraction, counting, division, equations, fractions, geometry, grouping, measuring, multiplication, number recognition, shape recognition, reading, letter recognition, and word recognition.

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                                    There are games, lots of songs, and activities to engage young children. The primary focus on this site is math and literacy.

                                    18. How Stuff Works

                                      This website is geared toward older children. It is a site filled with articles, podcasts, games, quizzes, and polls. There is a wealth of information on this site, which makes it useful for homework projects.

                                      The articles are attention grabbing, which help to snag the reader and get them interested in everything from the history of specific holidays to learning how super-volcanos work.

                                      This site touches on eleven primary categories of learning: animals, health, science, tech, automobiles, culture, home & garden, finances, lifestyle, entertainment, and adventure.

                                      Some of the skills that kids can learn through using this site include: building, gardening, self-direction, creativity, researching, empathy, understanding different cultures, and developing novel solutions.

                                      19. Nick Jr

                                        This website is based on the tv shows from the Nick Jr network. Young kids can learn while they interact with their favorite characters on this website. Bubble Guppies, Paw Patrol, Sunny, and dozens of other characters can be found on this site.

                                        There are games, video, stories, and printable activities found on this website. The site is entertaining for kids and they learn a variety of skills including math and reading.

                                        The content is geared toward preschool learning, and it is free.

                                        20. Space Racers

                                          This website is based on the show. The site is designed to get preschoolers excited about space and science.

                                          The learning on this site is based on STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). It comes through games, coloring pages, videos, music segments, lesson plans, and printouts from the lessons.

                                          There are a total of 17 lesson plans that use STEM concepts. The skills that kids learn from using this site include observation, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, mathematics, decision making, hypothesis testing, and goal setting.

                                          The science subjects taught on this site through the entertaining and engaging content include astronomy, rocket science, geology, and physics. This website is free!

                                          21. Crayola

                                            This website comes from the Crayola company. It is a free website.

                                            When kids click on the “play zone” they can find educational games and activities. The site has many free printable and coloring activities.

                                            The following skills can be learned by kids who use this site: following directions, drawing, painting, making digital creations, use of imagination, innovation, and making new creations.

                                            There are a great deal of DIY craft projects with detailed instructions found on this website.

                                            Featured photo credit: Ben Mullins via unsplash.com

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