Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Journey to an Asperger's Diagnosis

I have contemplated writing this for sometime. Lately more and more people are coming to me asking just how we got Jayden diagnosed on the Autism spectrum as Asperger's Syndrome (Aspie for short) so I figured it may just be a little easier to write it and it may be easier to tell it when the next person asks. I mean, I understand, how many 11 year olds are "finally" diagnosed on the spectrum and getting the diagnosis they deserve to help them succeed in life? I am still learning, and will continue so every day of my life, just so I can understand this child that Our Maker created just for me.

They say hind sight is always 20/20, how that is soooo true!!

The first question always seems to be "When did you know there was something wrong?" First off, there is nothing "wrong" with my child, different yes, but not wrong. I would have to journey back to when he was 2 years old I knew there was something different, but I pushed it aside as a "terrible two" issue. The red flag warning should have been when I took Jayden in for a well-child physical, something had gotten Jayden so upset that he picked up the steel trashcan in the doctors office and threw it. Why? Not because he was a terrible child, because this visit to the doctor changed his normal routine. I quickly learned that even if I give a 2-year-old a 5 minute warning that things would be changing we could avoid melt-downs. Unfortunately I did not follow the recommendation of his doctor to get him evaluated, because again he was in his "terrible 2's".

So life continued for us, we added a sister into his life. That "change" was a difficult experience at best. I would always brush it off with well he got to spend 3 entire years just him and I. And 20 months later we added yet another sister to the mix. I took him to preschool when he was 4, it was then that I had a "problem" child. I never put the pieces of the puzzle together until first grade. The pieces fell into order when Jayden's first grade teacher left for maternity leave. Jayden simply could not and would not handle a substitute teacher, despite my lack of trying to tell him that this teacher deserved the same respect as his normal teacher. Almost on a daily basis I would get a call from the principal "Jayden flipped over his desk and chair and became very loud" nice words to describe him screaming huh?! Finally we got him to say, "She is not supposed to be my teacher!", There it was...he doesn't like substitute teachers. Second and Third grades were very similar except the fact that teacher's were not absent for maternity leave, they had meetings or sick days. The school by now knew his triggers, so to help avoid them they would place Jayden in one of the other second/third grade rooms with a teacher that is always there. Did it help? Maybe, but not a huge difference.

Bring on the fourth grade. From the beginning of the year I knew that this transition was going to be tough. We had moved within the same school district, but it was a different elementary school. New classmates to go along with a new teacher. I forewarned of Jayden's tendency to hate substitues. I got Jayden into counseling to help him ease into the school year because he was scared to death of being the new kid. So counseling was suppose to help him open up, but all it got me was, "he's such a good kid I don't see anything wrong." Really??!! OMG, so maybe you should TALK with him instead of letting him engross himself in moon-sand for the hour. She would come out and say "we really didn't discuss much, but we made up some cool sculptures with the moon sand." Trust me I get the benefits of play therapy, but how was this going to solve my morning battles of getting Jayden to school when he flat out said "No one likes me."? It did not help that out of 19 children Jayden was one of four white, English speaking students, I would imagine having an incredibly difficult time as well.

It was this time frame that he had "papers" due. We found a subject that intrigued him, the Titanic. I promise you, if you ask him about the Titanic you might just find your mind spinning. (that is if he is comfortable talking to you, if not your likely to get a shoulder shrug) He also has other "intense" areas of interest, video games (I wish I could chuck those stupid things!) he loves driving by cars and naming the make and model of vehicles, he briefly even entertained an interest in Amelia Earhart, but that wasn't loved as well as the Titanic, and did you know the Titanic had 2 sister ships that also suffered similar misfortunes??!

So yes, 4th grade sucked...but 5th grade was by far the most difficult. This teacher underwent back surgery right away the beginning of the year, so we started out with a bang...quite literally, he shoved desks around and snapped pencils in retaliation to these substitute teachers. I was horrified, didn't get it, I made him write apology letter after apology letter. Trips or calls from not only the principal, but another "regular" 5th grade teacher was almost on a weekly basis. OK, so we have established Jayden strongly prefers one teacher the teacher that was introduced to him on "back to school night" and despite reminding Jayden that your just going to have to deal with it, because teachers get sick just like kids do. Nothing seemed to click.

The second half of 5th grade was more difficult. There are things that happened that led to Jayden staying and completing the 5th grade at a different school. The same "triggers" repeated at this new school. This time there was another "new" symptom. Arguments over the words "toss" and "throw", "shut" or "slam" words that may sound the same to you or I, but these little words would cause serious big time, melt down, temper tantrum melt-downs. I thought temper tantrums stopped at some point??!! They do, as kids get older they are suppose to find other ways of communicating appropriately.

Jayden is also very affectionate towards myself and my mother, we always contributed this to the fact he is just a cuddle bug. However, looking at peers his own age, they are not kissing their parents in front of others (I remember when my mom asked for a kiss before dropping us off in front of the school, it was like are you kidding?! She finally would stop about 2 blocks from the school and have us exchange hugs and kisses then instead of in front of the school.) Jayden is 11, he is taller than I am (yes I know that is not a difficult feat) but he will still rest his head on my shoulder, chest or even lap. I get all the rewards I need from him in the form of hugs, kisses and cuddle time!!

So the bottom line, I have a very affectionate, loving Aspie child. There are challenges, but please tell me the name of one parent who doesn't have a hard time parenting at one point or another?! We as mom's we stick together, we help one another. I just happen to get the privilege of getting loved on a little longer than "normal" :)

This Aspie Journey journal is just beginning, I am sure there will be lots more fun in the coming future. If you have questions, please ask, I am not offended. Just know that there really is not a "typical" aspie child. They don't all have ADHD, and for some reason the school professionals thought they are intertwined...They are NOT!!

Ending it with a little funny, so Jason and myself took Jayden on a trip to the Amelia Earhart festival in Atchison, Kansas. Jason and I were talking about a bucket list, and we both agreed that we had to have a vacation in Hawaii before we kicked the bucket. Jayden was in the back, listening and finally asks "what bucket, I don't see a bucket!" That right there is your "typical" asperger's child they are VERY literal people!!