Daniel J Vance

People didn’t like 7-year-old Logan’s erratic behavior. Some people were even calling him an undisciplined brat. Then Logan’s mother, 38-year-old Tamara Hansen of Mankato, Minnesota, decided she’d had enough of the biting comments and began clearing up the misunderstanding using creative means. Logan isn’t a brat: he just has autism.

A National Institutes of Health website states that all children with “autism spectrum disorder” demonstrate deficits in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and have repetitive behaviors or interests. Autism may affect one child in 150.

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“Logan is a fun-loving, 7-year-old boy,” said Hansen in a telephone interview. “He was diagnosed with autism at age two. Before that he had been able to say eighteen different words and then suddenly he couldn’t. It was like my son disappeared.”

The psychologist diagnosing the autism said Logan probably would never talk again. In response, Hansen quit her job and began caring for Logan full-time because, she said, “I believed he could overcome many of the things they said he wasn’t going to do.”

Her commitment paid off. Today, Logan is able to attend public school and is considered high-functioning and highly verbal. Yet he still exhibits “bratty” behaviors many people misunderstand. Said Hansen, “For instance, Logan doesn’t know about personal space. He’s a very large boy for his age and (his physical closeness) can intimidate his peers.”

Logan can be overwhelmed by sounds, smells, and touches. When confused, sometimes he will talk loudly or thrust his arms in the air while walking in circles. When playing, he only enjoys anything Star Wars-related and will become irritated when other children don’t share the same repetitive passion.

When receiving comments and judgmental looks concerning her son’s behavior, Hansen began handing out to people a card that explains autism. It has helped.

“I had to come up with a better way to explain Logan’s behavior,” said Hansen of the cards. “No matter how people respond to the card, at least I know I’ve done my job.” Hansen is also in the process of opening what she believes will be Minnesota’s first daycare center serving children with autism.

“I’m like a mother bear,” she said. “I’m a strong-willed woman fighting so my child can be better understood.”

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