Saturday, October 20, 2012

The unofficial diagnosis

Marty was evaluated this week by his preschool special education [special needs] department. Going into this appointment, I was a little anxious. I hoped that the special education department would be able to provide me with the answers that I wanted, like: how do I get this child officially diagnosed?, does having a diagnosis of HFA, PDD, or Aspergers really make a difference?, when can my child get some extra help for his behavioral issues? Well, Marty aced all of the tests gauging his learning capability. I wanted to scream, “News flash, Marty does not have a learning disability!” I sought out help from the special education department for a specific reason: behavioral and social challenges at home.  His speech was evaluated too; Nothing is wrong with his speech other than his monotone voice, inflection impairments, pragmatic speech, and oh, his tendency to talk endlessly about TRAINS. During the evaluation, Marty remained calm, no rude outburst or mean glares; I think he actually enjoyed it. He even showed off some of his stereotypical Asperger behaviors like flapping and flicking his fingers.

To my surprise, Marty’s preschool teachers were also given a questionnaire and they relayed the same sentiments that I have: Marty has difficulties with transitions, he doesn’t work well in a group, and he prefers to play alone. After all that, the special education team of evaluators told me that Marty was simply too smart for the special needs class. They believed that he needed to be in the class with typically developing children. Although, they got a kick out of his constant talk of Thomas [the train] and attempts to monopolize their exchanges with facts about trains. He even told an evaluator, when she asked where was his home? “It’s the house where all the trains are.”

Thankfully, one of the evaluators happened to have a PhD in autism spectrum disorders [literally, lol]. She observed Marty’s quirkiness [noting that he does, in fact, talk kind of “robotic”] and concluded that he most likely has Aspergers or PDD; though she believes that having the official diagnosis is not as important as implementing social skills training and working on counteracting some of him problematic behaviors at home. Apparently, the special needs preschool class works with children that have severe disabilities and challenges that hinder their learning ability. Marty’s issues are more social and have a limited effect on his educational learning process [I guess]. Thus, his social and behavioral issues can’t really be addressed until he is in kindergarten. Once he reaches kindergarten, I can ask his school to have him evaluated for Aspergers by a psychologist. Until then, I should use community based services to help me with those ‘Aspergerish’ challenges.  So, I really feel like I am back to square one…searching ‘the system’ for answers to a problem using my sparse financial resources.

If my kids had health insurance, I’d probably be able to go to a developmental pediatrician or psychiatrist. But without adequate health insurance and funds, I have to get creative, tap into my psychology background and start working on some kind of behavioral interventions for my child on my own. Never in a million years would I have thought that I would have a child with autism, let alone marry someone with HFA. Nonetheless, I love my little Aspie, Marty; he is a light in my life. I look forward to sharing our journey together and doing my part to make life easier for him and others like US. Because, not only do children with an ASD need lots of help, parents, caregivers, and moms of those children with autism, Aspergers, or any other disability and special needs, require a lot of compassion, support, and help coping with the demands of raising children that act and think differently.

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