Autism: Deaf Mother’s Tie Story

Important Autism Lesson Mother Learned

Raising a son with autism: Tammy Jo, parent of a Deaf child with autism, shares a story about raising her son. Through this important lesson she learned, we can all benefit and increase our understanding of how to interact with children with autism.

Son Identifying his Autism: Hi, my name is Tammy Ellis. I would like to share with you about my son, Kane, who is Deaf and has autism. He was born it autism and while he was growing up, I learned a lot about autism, including what I needed to do and what I could do to make things better for my son. When he was 11 years old, he recognized that he was different than other children. He asked me why everyone kept away from him and why they talked about him. He had tried to make friends, but wasn’t successful. He felt hurt and wondered if something was wrong with him. He kept asking, “Why me? Why me?” He cried so hard about this when he was just 11 years old. I tried to comfort him by explaining that each one of us has something special about ourselves that makes us different from others, and that even applied to me. No matter how much I explained that no one was exactly the same, Kane was still crushed and devastated. 

Tie Rack as a Gift: I felt awful and didn’t know what to do. Finally, I went to the store and bought some things that I thought he might like. I gave him the gifts, which he opened and looked over. He was transfixed by one item in particular – a motorized revolving hanger for ties – because he loved fans, including ceiling fans and any type of fan that spun around. He loved watching fans and they had a meditative effect on him and seemed to meet a need of his. In addition to the revolving tie rack, I had also bought three new ties and hung them on the rack, where they were spinning around and he could choose which one he wanted to wear. I thought he could use it when getting ready for school, and maybe people would like his ties. 

Teaching Son How to Use YouTube: When I showed Kane a YouTube video that explained how to put on a tie and different techniques to use, he really liked it. YouTube is great and you can learn how to do anything on YouTube. Kane picked up the art of how to put on a tie with lots of hands-on practice, thanks to YouTube making it so easy. He put on his tie and went off to school, where many people approached him and gave him compliments about his tie. He even made friends.

Empowering Your Autistic Child: One day he came home and asked me to help him make posters. He had an idea to advertise a “Tie Day” at school, to encourage any men and boys at school to join him in wearing a tie. I thought this was a good idea, so I helped him with the posters, then checked with the school about the policy for hanging the posters. The school was supportive and explained where it was permitted to hang posters. We coordinated everything and the posters went up. 

Cooperation from School: Sure enough, on Wednesdays, many teachers, faculty and friends came together to wear ties! It was great! Even one man who worked in the cafeteria, who detested wearing ties, made a paper tie and hung it on the wall. When he saw Kane coming, he would quickly fasten the tie to his shirt, then hang it back up after he left. For those students who didn’t have ties, Kane would make arrangements to lend them ties. This really helped him make more friends, all of whom were supportive of each other. One day, the principal, who was a woman, decided to join in and wear a tie. When Kane saw her, he became upset and went to talk with a school counselor. After the counselor asked the principal not to wear the tie, Kane decided to make posters advertising Tuesdays as a day for women to wear ties, while men would wear them on Wednesdays. 

Graduation Day: The tie days went on for five years, until graduation day, when Kane thanked everyone for supporting him on tie days. After that, things went back to normal. Kane really appreciated the tie days. They gave him an opportunity to resolve problems and pursue something that was important to him, instead of me trying to fix things for him. This was a really special experience that taught me a lot about autism.

Video description: Tammy Jo is sitting and signing her story.

Deaf Counseling Center offers national Deaf therapy services. We provide both teletherapy (videophone and other internet-platforms) and in-office therapy to Deaf clients on a national basis. Contact us for more information.





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