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From Inside the Puzzle: Raising a Child with Autism Blog

About From Inside the Puzzle: Raising a Child with Autism Blog

Devon Alley provides a "posautive" parental perspective on childhood autism, sensory integration dysfunction, and other issues relevant to the Occupation Therapy Field.

About Devon Alley

Devon Alley moved to Knoxville in 2004 to pursue her Master of Arts in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee, and she decided to make the city her home after graduation. She spends most of her time with her 11-year-old daughter, A., her husband, Thomas, and their cat, Pantoufle.

A. was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and immediately began receiving several services, including speech therapy, occupational therapy and sensory integration therapy. While A. began her journey completely speechless and emotionally withdrawn, through the help and support of many caring individuals and organizations, she has become extremely high-functioning. She is highly verbal and communicative, as well as very self-aware, affectionate, and empathetic. While she still struggles with issues of self-control, social interactions, and the development of healthy coping skills, among other things -- she is on her way to being nearly mainstreamed into the typical classroom setting.

This blog will not only focus on many of the treatments A. has received and continues to receive as autism and sensory integration difficulties continue to affect her everyday life, but it will also explore positive parenting strategies designed to assist autistic children in becoming confident self-advocates throughout adolescence and adulthood. Parenting a "tween" girl on the spectrum has created an interesting and unique set of challenges, and I am committed to discovering more positive methods of tackling these issues in order to assist my daughter in developing the confidence, pride, and positive self-esteem that she will undoubtedly need as her interaction with the world becomes more intricate and involved. This blog will also explore the psychology of parenthood, and all of the stress, doubt, and worry, as well as the joy, delight, and celebration that being a parent entails.

The title of this blog, "From Inside The Puzzle," turns the commonly accepted symbol for autism on its head. Our culture and society uses the puzzle piece to represent autism for various reasons: the condition of autism is highly mysterious; autism is seen as a puzzling disorder that displaces our children from the norms of society; autism is a condition that needs to be "figured out" or "cured." More positive interpretations of the puzzle piece symbol suggest that it represents the way the autistic mind works, though many adult autistic individuals find it a bit off-putting to be labeled as a mysterious, puzzling enigma. The through-line in most of these definitions and interpretations, however, seems to be that someone is looking at a person with autism from the outside-in and labeling that person or that condition with this puzzling symbol. The title of this blog, however, seeks to challenge those common ideas. We're looking at autism from the inside-out. I'm exploring and celebrating the way my reportedly "puzzling" child's mind works, and I'm broadcasting those discoveries to the world, in an effort to promote awareness and advocacy for the success, well-being, and social acceptance of young autistic people. The puzzle can be such a divisive symbol within a community that desperately needs, now more than ever, to build a strong sense of unity -- and I hope that my more "posautive" spin on the puzzle piece might help bridge the gap among these various perspectives in some small way.

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