Tuesday, January 25, 2011

I Saw The Signs

Post by LeMira

The signs were there from the beginning, but I just assumed they were quirks.

When he was a baby, he never looked at lights.  I was a little confused why he was not so memorized with lights like so many other babies.  Then, I found out he had cataracts due to being born prematurely. This problem warranted surgery, but I still found it odd that he would stare at his mobile and "yell" and "talk" at it.   After he had surgery, he began to notice lights more, but never like others.   Instead, he was mesmerized by the fan, but that wasn't so unusual, a lot of babies, if not most, are intrigued by a ceiling fan.

What was odd, though, was that he was mesmerized by all things spinning.  He would stare at our stroller and the wheels.  If something would spin, he would spin it.  If he could spin in it, he would, and he never seemed to get dizzy.

Another quirk was that he began to bang his head or inflict pain on himself by biting his hands.  I remember disciplining him and getting upset and trying to teach him not to do those things when he was only nine months old.  Sometimes I felt like I was yelling at him trying to get him to stop.  I figured the head banging was due to teething pain.  It wasn't.

Numbers.  Anything with numbers:  clocks, CD players, timers, calculators, thermometers, calendars.  It has numbers, he's there.  This obsession began at age two when we bought him his first CD player.  He would blast the volume, but most of all, he would open the lid, spin the disc, and then continuously change the track number.  Songs were named not by title or turn, but by track number.

Rocking and/or swinging.  When he first came home from the hospital, he loathed the swing.  I originally thought it was because the nurses used it all the time to calm him during his stay, however, I now realize that the type of swing I had (a take-along) with all of it's lights, annoying music and fish swinging in the face were too much for him to handle.  When he discovered our glider ottoman, he would glide and listen to music for a long time.  He used it until it broke when he was five or six.  Then he discovered swings.  At the park, that's where he would stay the entire time.  I've since learned that the rocking/swinging seems to be his stimming, and it is a good way to help him relax and wind down.  Too bad his tree swing broke over the holiday break.

Music and buttons.  If a toy has music, it's his favorite.  He's always responded to music, and he loves to make up his own songs.  He's distinguished between beat and rhythm since was at least 18 months old.

Someone, I believe it was Natalie, first mentioned the "a" word (autism) when I mentioned how entranced my son was with spinning things, and she told me that it reminded her of a child she new with autism.  I quickly dismissed this as my son definitely loved social contact and people.

When he was tested for preschool, the examiner was a former colleague of mine when I worked as an elementary school teacher.  When I told him about some of the "quirky" things that my son did, he mentioned "autistic tendencies."  I immediately spouted off why my son did not have autism, and I again dismissed the suggestion.

It was a family trip to Disneyland that I started to get really worried.  My husband's dear aunt introduced us to Sensory Processing Disorder and the book the Out of Sync Child. Many of the symptoms seemed to fit my son, but as he progressed to transitional Kindergarten and did not qualify for Occupational Therapy, I knew that there must be more.  I wondered about ADD.

That's when Natalie began teaching me about PDD-NOS. 

It took me until my son was six years old to get him diagnosed and with services.  It really is better to get services started before age five, or so I've heard (I can't give an exact source on this at the moment).  However, we were lucky.  Since my son was born severely premature, he had all the advantages of therapy from the very beginning.  Once he came home, he had speech, vision, and occupational therapy.  When he turned three, he was tested for preschool; and when he was five, he moved into transitional kindergarten -- all due to "developmental delay due to prematurity."  He's had services from the very beginning.  We are lucky for that, for the therapy he's received has helped him more. 

Yes, I've had the "what-ifs," but I'm happy that we are where we are.  My advice, if you have a question, ask.  If you wonder, research.  If you have the nagging feeling that something is "off," listen to it.  It's okay.  It's not your fault.  It just is.  Parental Instinct, especially Mother's Instinct, is right more often than not.  Trust it.  Remember a diagnosis doesn't define you, it explains some things, but most importantly, it's meant to get your child and you the help you both need.

My son has come a long way, and so have I.   Sometimes it seems like these quirks are too much and too much like road-blocks, but to be honest, they are a huge part of who my son is, and I wouldn't trade him for the world.


Brittany H. said...

I'm not sure when I would have noticed my daughter was progressing differently than other children if it hadn't been for my and my husband's moms both mentioning something. Claire is severely delayed in communication and social interaction--which puts her on the spectrum. I felt like such a pessimist because all my friends would ask me how life was with two children (most of whom were about to have their second), and all I could say was how hard it was. I thought there was something wrong with me because I could not for the life of me get Claire to respond or engage. I was kind of relieved when Claire was diagnosed and I learned that it really WAS harder. We were able to start therapy immediately. It's been a slow process but I, too, am so grateful she's a part of our family!

Natalie said...

It is a painful and exasperating process, getting to the point of acceptance. But I can't say it wasn't worth it!!