Well, this is where it begins--for this blog, anyway! My son Ben was diagnosed with Autism about a month ago. It was a late diagnosis, really; he's six years old and moving into first grade. We had originally thought he had a serious ADHD problem when every day of preschool included some incident of running out of the classroom into the parking lot or hall, punching another child in the nose, and/or any number of assorted problem behaviors. Unpleasant mothers of other preschool children glared unkindly at me every day, wondering what kind of mother I was to be raising such a terrible child. I wished plagues of locusts upon those "perfect" moms with their "perfect" little children.
Last year, kindergarten, we noticed that Ben couldn't stand to have other kids in his "space." He didn't play with the other children at recess, couldn't tolerate changes to the normal school routine (for example, picture day or an assembly), and continued to exhibit impulsive, destructive behaviors. We started looking at the possibility of an autism spectrum disorder by mid-year, thinking that since Ben had pretty good language skills, he might be facing Asperger's Disorder. By the end of kindergarten, we had gotten the school psychologist involved who completed his testing on the very last day of school, and preliminary results supported our suspicions.
This summer we finally sought out the help of a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist who, after an extensive clinical interview, told us that Ben met 9 of the 12 DSM-IV criteria for Autism (6 are necessary for the diagnosis). And there it is. Our son is Autistic.
Most people are given this news when their child is two or three years old. The "system" failed us, I guess. Ben missed all his developmental milestones, but our pediatricians just said, "Well, he's a little behind, but some kids just do things at their own pace." The preschool teacher might have suggested that we ask our pediatrician about autism, but state laws prohibited her from saying anything about Ben having a problem of any kind. And I thought Autism meant a child who spends all day quietly rocking, never speaking a word, resisting all human contact.
Turns out, the faces of Autism are as varied as stars in the sky. Some kids lack all language; others face serious social deficits but never seem to stop talking. Some have academic and intellectual problems; others excel in certain areas beyond what any of their peers can do. Ben speaks--constantly--but he isn't necessarily communicating. He lacks an ability to connect with others. He needs routine and order to feel comfortable, and discomfort is manifested as impulsivity.
So here comes first grade. I've been meeting with the "team" at school to get an IEP in place, and the psychiatrist has put Ben on a medication that seems to control his impulsivity. It also has the unfortunate side-effect of putting him to sleep, which obviously won't work in school. And school starts on Thursday. Today is Monday.
This blog is partly for me--to mark progress, remember milestones, and celebrate Ben for the unique person that he is. It is also for you, whoever you are. Maybe you are one of my relatives, and you want to keep track of Ben's progress. Maybe you are a friend and you want to see what's new in our continuing saga. Maybe you don't know me at all, and either have an Autistic child or are just curious about what Autism looks like. Whoever you are, welcome. You keep reading; I'll keep writing, and we'll just take this "adventure" one day at a time.