Monday, August 29, 2011

Perspective and Losing It

Just in time for the first day of school, the results of yet another autism study hit the news circuit. The study, out of UC Davis, looked at the prevalence of autism in the younger siblings of kids with autism. Before the study, researchers estimated the sibling of an autistic child had a 3 to 14% chance of being autistic, but this new study shows that the chances are closer to 20% overall and even higher (more than 25%) if the younger sib is a boy.

Glass half-full folks will point out that this means there is still close to a 75% chance that Stow is not autistic, but I am horrible with numbers. I tend to fall in the "less than X percent" no matter how little that percentage happens to be. When I had an ACL reconstruction in my right knee, I was one of the less than two (yes, two) percent who had problems post surgery, and when I went through the housing lottery my first year of college, I drew the very last number--number 347 out of 347. So sure, 25% means that Stow has a 75% chance of being neuro-typical, but given my luck with numbers, it's hard not to panic.

As any parent with a kid on the spectrum knows, the trick is to catch the problem early and hit various therapies as soon as possible. So even before the results of this study, I knew we needed to be more vigilant with Stow. We knew something was different about Sky years before we could convince a doctor to have him evaluated. We had at least four doctors in two different countries tell us that Sky's issues were due to his developmental stage and that he would "grow out of them." It's hard not to blame ourselves for not being more persistent and for not trusting our gut(s) a little bit more. How would things have been different if we'd known sooner? Would Sky have been better prepared for kindergarten and first grade? Would his school experience be better? All good questions. All completely useless.

We learned we were expecting Stow right about the time we got Sky's diagnosis. Like I have said in previous posts, getting the diagnosis helped us figure out a lot. But it also made us realize Sky wasn't simply going "grow out" of his challenges and made us wonder whether the new baby would be on the spectrum as well. Even before we knew Stow was a boy, I worried. And then we found out he was a boy, and I worried even more. You can tell me it won't do any good to worry, and I will agree with you wholeheartedly. But I doubt I will stop worrying. In fact I am pretty sure I will worry for the next several years.

Ren points out that the numerous studies don't matter since we can't change anything. In his more optimistic moments, he even points out that now we know what we are doing, so we are prepared if Stow is on the spectrum. I suppose he's right, though I also know that autism can take a hundred different forms in a hundred different kids.

Even the earliest tests don't detect autism before the age of one. Still, Ren and I find ourselves checking Stow's eye contact, seeing if he reads and responds to our facial expressions, etc. It's ridiculous, we know it is. But we still do it.

Fortunately, Stow just laughs and gurgles at us. "Silly Mommy. Silly Daddy. You keep this up and you will miss all the great stuff."

1 comment:

FMBMC said...

Go, Stow! He's got the right idea. Hugs!