A son’s special ability
Harbour Grace mother shares story in new book on autism
Dawn Haire-Butt of Harbour Grace knew her son Kyle was a little bit different growing up. While he was always great in school and loved to take in information, he was barely interested in socializing.
A few years ago, an older stepsister of Kyle’s mentioned the similarities between him and her younger brother who was diagnosed as autistic. In 2008, a doctor at the Janeway Children’s Hospital diagnosed Kyle with Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder impacting language and behaviour.
Dawn and Kyle’s story is part of a new book from Flanker Press that compiles essays aiming to improve the lives of parents, educators, and people who have autism spectrum disorder. “Autism: The Gift That Needs to Be Opened” features contributions from families, experts and people who have autism spectrum disorder. Her essay is titled “I Don’t Have a Disability, I Have a Special Ability.”
The opportunity to share her family’s story in the book came about through an informal chat at Costco with Flanker Press publisher Jerry Cranford, who also has a son with autism and was there to promote a new release.
“He talks to strangers like he knows them for five years,” said Kyle as Dawn shared the story.
Seven years removed from his initial diagnosis, Kyle is a Grade 9 student in his first year at Carbonear Collegiate. Changing schools was an adjustment for Kyle, who previously attended St. Francis School in Harbour Grace.
It’s always been look at the positive, don’t look at the negative. And I think it made a big difference in his development. Dawn Haire-Butt
“I have to wait five minutes before someone unlocks the door,” Kyle told The Compass. “And I nearly try to break down the door to get away from all the people.”
Kyle remains a good learner. He one day hopes to study plan design engineering and hopes to attend College of the North Atlantic, feeling the classrooms at Memorial University will be too cavernous.
“A study subject is not a study subject to him, because he enjoys the information,” said his mom.
Focus on the positives
Dawn said her son is a great communicator, but social interactions are where he still struggles. He’s also sensitive to noise.
“It’s always been look at the positive, don’t look at the negative,” said Dawn. “And I think it made a big difference in his development. He’s not always, ‘Oh, woe is me.’ He doesn’t always have people around him going, ‘Oh the poor thing.’ It’s like, why can’t you do it? Just because you’re autistic or have Asperger’s, why can’t you do it?”
He has a literal mind for certain and is willing to dissect another person’s comment instantly, as The Compass found out while asking Kyle whether he enjoyed surfing the Internet on his tablet device after school as part of his relaxation routine.
“How would I surf the Internet? It has nothing to do with water or a surfboard. How would that work?”
Dawn is pleased her son is getting to the point where he makes decisions on his own, though Kyle is still game to get two cents from his parents. As for advice she’d offer to other parents with a child who has autism spectrum disorder, Dawn emphasizes the importance of routines and a calm environment.
“In the morning, the house is very calm,” she said. “We never have the screaming matches. Every night … we’ll sit down and discuss stuff.”
Autism does not amount to a free pass either in their household. If Kyle misbehaves, Dawn says he’s treated no differently than his younger sister.
“If he gets in trouble, he gets in trouble.”
Kyle Butt (left) and his mother Dawn Haire-Butt sit beside each other at their home in Harbour Grace. Dawn contributed an essay about how her family has treated her son’s Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis in the new Flanker Press book “Autism: The Gift That Needs to Be Opened.”
“Autism: The Gift That Needs to Be Opened” is published by Flanker Press.