Saturday, April 21, 2007

Emotional Roller Coaster - Living With Autism

The following excerpts are from the first of a six part Vancouver Sun series Faces of Autism by columnist Peter McMartin and photographer Glenn Baglo. The author is correct to point out the uniqueness of each person with autism. It is also true though, that life with an autism family member and loved one, is an emotional roller coaster with considerable stress. Parents of severely autistic children will be able to relate to much of what is portrayed in this article.

Autistic 14-year-old Kristi Jansen swings from crying to laughing to screaming in a matter of seconds. Her body, home and family members -- especially her mother -- bear the scars of her violent outbursts that have only been calmed through years of expensive therapy. Kristi isn't a typical autistic child -- in fact, there is no such thing, as Pete McMartin and photographer Glenn Baglo discover. What families struggling with the disorder do have in common, however, is intense physical, emotional and financial stress.

t is 3:30 p.m. on a Tuesday and Kristi Jansen, 14, of Langley, is just home from high school. She is tall and blond, with the long-limbed athletic build of a middle-distance runner. She is wearing a short jacket, leggings and a camouflage print skirt -- an outfit of combat chic that gives her an artful, edgy look, as if she were the kind of young woman who would gravitate toward the high school drama club. Her mother, Sandy, gives Kristi a Popsicle. Kristi settles on the den couch to watch television and Sandy turns on cartoons for her. Her mother and I go into the living room at the front of the house to talk.

And then, without warning, Kristi is screaming.

That is not quite right. Kristi is screaming and laughing and crying, one outburst after the other. They come within seconds of each other, intermingled, without pause, as if she were channel-surfing her emotions. ...... .....

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