A son’s spe­cial abil­ity

Har­bour Grace mother shares story in new book on autism

The Compass - - NEWS - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON ed­i­tor@CBN­com­pass.ca

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.”

New school

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.”

NDREW ROBIN­SON/THE COM­PASS

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.

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