I feel like I am in an AA meeting. “We’ve been diagnosed over 90 days and counting.” I still feel the need to explain to everyone who witnesses a meltdown, or behavior that isn’t typical. I want to shout at the people who don’t understand, and I don’t get the “system” at all in many ways. I should, but I don’t. My son was diagnosed as autistic in October. He is high-functioning, but it was still a shock, and a major change. In some ways I’ve always known, but in others, I wonder how this could happen to my brilliant, funny, and talented child. But, I digress, let me do a real introduction.
I have a degree in psychology. I also taught violin and piano. I was a substitute teacher, and a private ABA tutor through the Lovaas Center. I have worked with countless children, and many of them have been on the autism spectrum. I know what to expect, how autism is defined, and diagnosed clinically. I have experience dealing with the autistic spectrum of behaviors and delays. I know how to teach everything in an organized, step-by-step fashion, and I think I unconsciously did that with my son. He is now 8. In September I visited his 2nd grade class for the first time, and watched him anxiously bite his nails, then fingers, then wrist. I have seen that repetitive biting a hundred times in students I tutor, and just like that, my son was autistic.
I told my husband. He brushed me off. We already knew that Ben had ADHD, and he was probably just anxious about a test or something else happening that day. I have a chronic medical condition that had significantly worsened in the last year, and it had a strong affect on my son. However, I knew it was more than that. My husband agreed to let me take him to a child psychiatrist thinking that he was just anxious and would benefit from counseling and maybe a short-term trial of medication. That combined with the fact that his ADHD medication was no longer sufficient to help him control his behavior at school, home, church or his theater class, and I had a case for the doctor.
When we went in. I described my concerns concisely. Ben is biting himself. He is anxious and cries/tantrums frequently. He doesn’t like change. He craves attention and stimulus. He has a hard time sleeping at night. He doesn’t really have any friends. He gets along great with everyone, but there aren’t kids coming to our home, and he hasn’t connected with any one group at school. There are problems with his writing and other fine motor skills. He’ll only eat certain foods, and the list is getting shorter. He interrupts, and can’t be interrupted. He repeats himself endlessly, and only talks about, plays with and likes Legos and video games. The list goes on.
I am given another series of forms to fill out, and referred to a neuropsychologist for testing. Final diagnosis – my son is autistic. He also has severe ADHD and dyslexia, and global delays, plus he has a mood disorder- also known as depression and anxiety, which needs to be treated immediately. My first thoughts are “of course, I already knew this, and it figures.” I’m the person who works with autistic kids, why wouldn’t my son be autistic. It wouldn’t be until days and weeks later that I would truly come to understand what this means on a personal and family level, and I don’t think I will ever truly adjust to the idea, but he is my son, and that means I will move Heaven and Earth for him. He really isn’t any different today than he was yesterday so nothing has changed, and yet everything has changed.
Editor’s Note: I want to welcome Natalie to The Autism Education Site. I received more than 130 applications for the blogger position and ultimately, I asked Natalie to join me in blogging for the site. Thank you Natalie for sharing your story. ~ Melissa ~