Friday, November 10, 2017

A Post at 4 A.M.

They say if you've met one kid on the autism spectrum, you've met one kid on the autism spectrum. In other words, no two kids with autism present in the same way. Seven years ago (almost), as a parent of a newly diagnosed kid, I found this truth to be especially galling. Friends would introduce me to acquaintances with kids on the spectrum, but our conversations would hit one dead end after another as I tried to figure out how I could learn from their years of experience when there seemed to be so little that our kids had in common. That's how I ended up on the internet and why I started this blog. Parenting a kid with autism felt a lot like shouting out into the void.

In February, Stow received an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis, too. While I wasn't surprised given all the ways he has struggled and the various developmental delays that he continues to wrestle, I also wasn't sure I believed it. I mean, Stow's behavior and struggles seemed to look very little like Sky's. In fact, despite the fact that Stow showed various delays, his issues didn't present themselves enough like the autism we knew to convince us to seek out a formal diagnosis. And, presumably, we should know better. We're already autism parents. In February, when we went to the neurologist, we weren't looking for or expecting ASD. But, that's what we got.

Since then, I've started to see it. It looks SO different than Sky's, but I am pretty sure it's there. Currently, we're in the process of getting a second opinion in the form of a very thorough evaluation at one of the leading autism centers in the country, which will help us better understand all that is going on. Will they also diagnose Stow with autism? I don't know. I do know that they have already diagnosed him with a significant expressive and receptive language disorder. And, the sensory processing disorder continues to "stick." Early next year, he will get the final phase of the eval done, and I suppose then we will KNOW. But, do we ever really know? And, does it really matter? I suppose the diagnosis changes nothing. The struggles he has will continue to be the struggles he has, and second-opinion diagnosis or not, we will continue to work with him to manage those struggles in the best way we know how.

So, what's my point? Actually, none of the stuff above is my point, really (Sorry! I'm working on little sleep). My point is that this is hard. It's hard for all the ways I've talked about before--the meltdowns, the inflexibility, the unpredictability, the chaos, the interventions, the therapy appointments. And, it's also really hard because it takes a long time to figure out what is going on, and even as we are trying to figure it out, we still have to go to the mat for our kids and push back against teachers, strangers, and often even friends and family who don't understand.

For the first four years of Sky's school life, we had him in a private school (the best of our options at the time) that did not offer special education services. Every single day, (EVERY! SINGLE! DAY!) I was at the school talking to his teachers about one issue or another. Once he got the diagnosis, I had the words for what I was trying to tell them, but even though I was still learning what it all meant myself, I advocated for him daily and made sure they understood why he did what he did and accommodated him accordingly. Then, I got the job I have now, and we moved to an area with excellent public schools, and for the first time as an autism parent, I got to see what the right amount of accommodation by teachers who understood ASD could do. You can read posts here, here, and here (not to mention here and here and here and here and here) about the struggles we had with Sky in school back then. And, you can notice that I rarely talk about school any more. When schools handle special needs right, there's not much to write about. Stow does a lot of the same things Sky did in school at the same age, and because the teachers and the principal know how to handle it, I don't have to explain to them about sensory seeking behavior and poor social skills and intentionality. There are 7 people on Stow's IEP team who "get it," and just like that, my life is 1000 times easier than it could have been.

But, there are still a lot of people who don't get it, and I'd like to be able to tell you that I don't care about them anymore. On some level, I guess, I am so deep into parenting kids with autism, that I'm oblivious to the stares and the judgment of strangers who can't believe I "let" my kid hit me or that I give my careening pre-teen a device to calm him down despite the fact he's being "a baby." What still bugs me, though, is when people who know us question our reality. After all these years, I still have friends and relatives (some of them quite "close")*** that believe our kids' issues lie squarely in our failure as parents because we just don't discipline our children well enough. There are still people who know us well (enough to know better) who question why we need to make accommodations--things like not trying to do too much in a day or keeping a pretty steady routine or sticking as closely as possible to dietary restrictions--and who assume it's because we have raised three fragile (entitled? selfish?) snowflakes. I don't know, you guys; this sh*t is hard enough already. Wouldn't it be heavenly if we had lives full of people we love and care for who care for us and love us where we are and for who we are? These days, I'm working hard to see if I can't make that happen for my family and for myself. And, to be honest, I think, maybe, this might be the biggest challenge on this journey.

***For the record, if you're reading this blog, I am probably not talking about you. There are many people who struggle to know how to help or what to say, but they are trying and we know they are trying. Trying means a lot to us!

1 comment:

viviane said...

Two of my boys have Fragile X syndrome, which was transmitted to me by my father who got it from his mother. My father was a doctor, and educated man, and he never wanted to acknowledge the fact that no, my children were not just spoiled kids who would have behaved better if I had given them a little spanking now and then.
I also met psychiatrists and pediatric neurologists who would not accept the diagnosis and wanted me to tell them about my pregnancy and the infancy of my children. Ours is a tough job. Now my boys are grownups and the harder years are past, but I feel for you.