World Autism Awareness Day will be celebrated on April 2: there will be a lot of talk about this delicate disorder. We interviewed Gabriella La Rovere, mother of an autistic girl now in her twenties and author of “I’m sorry, your son is autistic” and we asked her to tell us something more about her experience.
There World awareness day ofautism, established by the United Nations, is celebrated on April 2, 2021, as every year since 2007. Precisely for this important event we have chosen to speak more deeply about this delicate neuropsychic disorder, interviewing the writer (but also a doctor and journalist) Gabriella La Rovere, mother of an autistic girl now in her twenties and author of the book “I’m sorry, your son is autistic“(Editions Gruppo Abele).
Gabriella, in this text, wanted to tell about the daily goals of those who, for their child diagnosed with autism, have learned to «have to code the stimuli that come from the environment». The book brings together various experiences and addresses the fears of parents who, often lacking adequate support, suffer the uncertainties and fears about the future and inclusion of their children. There are also many references to biographies of well-known personalities. “I’m sorry, your son is autistic” also intends to accompany the reader on a path of awareness, in order to consider the autistic person as the protagonist of his life (in the center “the child, not the disease”): objective, the latter , of cultural and human development for all. We interviewed Gabriella, asking her to tell us more.
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“I’m sorry, your son is autistic”
The book collects most of the articles that the author had written for the site “Per noi autistici”, conceived and carried out by the journalist Gianluca Nicoletti.
“One day we spoke on the phone, Gianluca Nicoletti was fixing the site and, at a certain point, he said to me:” But did you realize that you have written at least one hundred articles on the site? You should write a book “. And from there came the idea of creating “I’m sorry, your son is autistic. I collected some of the articles I had published there, while others were written from scratch.”
What is autism and why do you think it is necessary to talk about it and clarify it?
Autism is one neurodiversity, another way the brain perceives its surroundings. The senses are activated in a different way, in an “other” way. For example, there is a stronger perception of light and a different perception of sounds, smell, touch. It is therefore a question of neurodiversity, in particular, of another way of being, not of a disease ».
“Based on the data communicated at a recent conference I attended, I can say that the current incidence of autism, in the light of the most recent analyzes, is 1 in 77 children. Years ago they were 1 in 200: now the diagnosis is more detailed, so much so that we talk about the “spectrum” of autism, which is equivalent to a gap in which there is much more and different aspects coexist. The number of incidence tends to decrease over time and this means that currently two categories of people live together: i neurotypical and neurodiverse. We should get used to this coexistence of ways of being. In my opinion, neurotypical people should understand autism, which is another way of thinking and communicating ».
«Furthermore, to date, the scientific community is in agreement in identifying a genetic cause for autism: there are small alterations in the chromosomes that can remain silent. Specifically, our DNA undergoes changes that can go dormant for years and years and manifest in other ways. I am sure, as is the scientific community, that there is a genetic cause, so much so that there are two genetic diseases that have associated autism: tuberous sclerosis, as in the case of my daughter, and X syndrome. fragile”.
Autism and literature
«I wanted, among other things, to say that literature can be looked at in a different way: there are many examples of autistic writers. I recently made a comparison between little Greta, who was much celebrated for her ecological ideas, and the markedly autistic writer Henry David Thoreau. Suffice it to read Thoreau’s book Mirtilli or the importance of small things: in the text he makes a dissertation on all types of blueberries and at the end he also writes some ecological reflections. These people really have a different way of perceiving reality and therefore have been able to tell us more about the direction in which the environment is going. Then, I deliberately chose to alternate light aspects with others a little more serious in my book. Now I am also continuing a study on some autistic writers to understand what they have managed to do in their books ».
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Concrete solutions for parents with autistic young children
At the center “the child, not the disease”, she argues in the book. Can you give concrete solutions for parents struggling with autistic young children?
- All babies go through the same stages of development.
“First of all, I want to remind parents that all children with autism are growing up, or rather they all go through the same stages of development, even if they do it at different times, which tend to be lengthened ».
- Stimulation of the senses.
«Currently, the diagnoses are very early. In my experience, immediately after the diagnosis and when the child is small, the key thing is to start with the stimulation of the senses: it is the latter that allows the little one to appreciate the surrounding environment and to make contact with it. For example, all children put objects in their mouths to know: sometimes the neurodiverse does not necessarily do so. It is then necessary to follow the child and accompany him to explore the world with all your senses at your disposal, also remembering that it is a long job ».
- Crawling is important.
“It is necessary to ensure that they can to crawl. This phase also allows children to explore and learn ».
- Observation is fundamental.
“It is necessary to observe your children a lot, to see exactly what they do and how they behave and, consequently, to implement the right strategies”.
- The parent is the one who knows their child best.
“We must stop considering the parent as” unfortunate “, but we must become aware of the fact that he is the true connoisseur of the child because he has him under his eyes every day, therefore his intuition has value”.
Autistic children and advice to schools
Finally, children, autism and educational institutions. What would you suggest to schools?
«In this regard I will tell about my experience, which dates back to the 90s. My daughter Benedetta, who is now 26, was small and there were very few trained teachers at the time. Currently, in my opinion there are schools equipped to deal with various disabilities, but it seems to me that Italy is a bit patchy: it depends on the various situations and the different schools. Unfortunately, it sometimes happens that autistic children are …