My Son Has Autism: How I Finally Figured it Out
Today is World Autism Awareness Day and April is Autism Awareness Month I wanted to share my Autism Story with you. Holding that baby for the first time is the dream of every mother. You carry your child for 9 months and then that moment comes. The first hello, the first kiss, the first I'm your momma. Then you count the fingers and the toes and everything is right with the world. You have a brand new baby. Look out world.
Ethan was my brand new baby. My pride, my joy, the love of my life. He was hitting every milestone. Heck, he was hitting every milestone a bit early. Then I started noticing little quirks.
First of all he would obsess over a toy. He had grown over attached to a blanket (which he is still attached to it today at 9 years old). Don't get me wrong most babies and toddlers have their one special thing but this was something different.
He really wouldn't look you in the eye. People kept telling us that he had a lazy eye, (in my head he didn't , he's perfect right). One of his eyes doesn't sit perfectly so everyone assumed it was a lazy eye. So after the 15,000th time of being told something was wrong with my child's eye I took him to the doctor. There was something wrong with my child's eye. It wasn't a lazy eye, the slight off set was cause by a scar he received on it in utero due to an infection. See no lazy eye. It just looks like he's not looking you in the eye.
Then one of his day care teachers pointed out that his speech was a little off. Things he should have been pronouncing correctly he wasn't. Again I chalked it up to he's barely 2. "What do you mean speech problem?"
Yet in the back of my head I heard the whisper, "autism." I ignored it, he's 2.
Then as he started getting older I noticed he liked to play alone. I would go pick him up and he would be off in a corner playing by himself. The kid hated crowds and if you got him in one he would shut down or throw a fit. One moment he was bouncing off the walls, the next minute he was getting angry at the silliest things. One day he was in my living room trying to transform one of his Transformers and suddenly it went flying across the room. So I took him to my pediatrician and we talked and decided it could be ADHD so we tried a few different prescriptions till we found one that calmed him down. Now I know some parents don't believe in prescription drugs for kids but I do, I believe it helps him stay calm and he is able to focus.
So we tried the prescription route, then one day he got angry and threw a chair across the room at his daycare.
Again, I heard the whisper, "autism"
We went back to the pediatrician and changed up his prescription because the type he was on was the only one that could be crushed and placed on food. My child was small and hadn't swallowed a pill in his life. However, this certain prescription had a bad side effect. It made him angry. So we opted to change to a pill and he would have to learn to swallow a pill. I was terrified because I couldn't take a pill until I was in Jr. High. However my guy was a trooper. He learned quickly and painlessly how to take a pill.
Hint: we practiced with Tic Tacs!
So we got that under control and things were good until preschool. Yeah, that wasn't good. He couldn't concentrate. Noises would drive him up the wall. He would get so frustrated and upset that the teacher couldn't teach, so they moved him to another class.
Again the whisper, "autism"
I kept ignoring it until I couldn't anymore. So again I consulted my pediatrician and she sent us out of town to a Pediatric Specialist who specializes in kids with Autism. She met and observed him for about 30 minutes and said he doesn't have autism. Let's change up his medication dosage and sent him on his way.
Yay! My child doesn't have Autism. Everyone was wrong. It's just his ADHD. Whew!
He started kindergarten. The buzzing of the lights bothered him. The tapping of a pencil bothered him. He refused to sit on the carpet during carpet time. He didn't understand certain things. He melted down every other day. The emails came, Ethan had another episode, this time it was over...
Don't even get me started on when a substitute showed up one day.
So then the parent teacher conference happened. This is where Ethan is, this is where he needs to be, but
The but that hung in the air for forever.
I knew it....I felt it coming.
So I just blurted it out....Autism.
The look in her eyes told the truth. Of course she couldn't come right out and say it.
I lost it, there in a tiny little chair, at a tiny little table, I cried.
I finally asked her if she could get the ball rolling on testing so we could have a definitive answer once and for all.
There you have it, the test came back and yes my child has a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome.
If you have ever watched a show called Parenthood (not the movie) on NBC, there is a child named Max on the show that has aspergers and it is a very spot on portrayal.
So now we know what it is and how to handle it. It doesn't mean it is easy.
My child is socially awkward. It is difficult for him to make friends, but he does have some awesome friends. He still has meltdowns. Don't get me started on thunderstorms or even dark clouds (the tornado that hit Amarillo in 2013 scarred him for life), hiccups will throw him into a meltdown every single time.
He isn't into sports, I've tried, he hates it, so I am not going to force it. He loves music so we are looking into music lessons.
He can tell you anything about the Titanic. Heck I now can tell you anything about the Titanic that you want to know. He's into ships, ships connected to the Titanic.
He loves Legos. I have learned to stop buying Lego sets because he won't want to put them together, he just wants to create his own designs.
He will stay on his tablet and/or DS all day if I don't keep tabs because he is watching videos on how to build things out of Legos or how to create something awesome in Minecraft, then will go to his Minecraft and play it till he builds what he saw on YouTube.
He is a sponge and loves learning about things and history.
He is different but he is my different. He's still my son, he just has a diagnosis.
I had friends in my life who didn't believe the diagnosis and thought they knew how to parent my child better than myself. They would try to show me how to talk to my son and how it was done. That's annoying. I know my son and I know what works. I have family members who still think spanking will solve the problem. Spanking doesn't solve the problem.
It is a real condition.
It is OK that he has autism. It is what makes him, him.
He will always struggle socially. I dread the days when he comes home and tells me that kids tell him he's weird. It breaks my heart into a million pieces. We have that conversation a lot, and I just tell him that God made him the exact way he is supposed to be and that is all that matters, and that I love him. Then we list the people that love him.
He doesn't understand sarcasm, jokes aren't always funny to him, he takes everything literally so I and others around me have to be careful what we say. His focus in his head, is him.
Luckily, he has great people that work with him on a daily basis and that are teaching him these important social skills.
UPDATE: March 31, 2015
Three years after his diagnosis, Ethan is making such strides. He is more social, although he still has trouble making friends, he makes an effort. He has learned to tell jokes and he gets jokes now. Plus, he doesn't fight fair with his momma, he fights with logic, and I find it very hard sometimes, to make my point when he throws logic with me. He is doing good in school, although he struggles with some subjects. One thing that I jumped for joy, he takes part in carpet time, on the carpet!!! Yes! He doesn't use a chair anymore. He still has sensory issues, and yes he even has meltdowns, but we have learned to deal with them. We take it one day at a time. Ethan will always have autism, however, he doesn't let it stop him.
Autism is real. In fact it now affects 1 in 68 kids. It seems to be something more common in boys, where 1 in 42 boys are diagnosed with autism. I guarantee that someone in your family or someone you know has autism or has a child with autism.
UPDATE: March 23, 2016
So Ethan is now 9 and we have new obsessions and new interests. Ethan is now interested in the different wars, mainly World War 2, my son has be come quite the history buff.
He has had a rough year in school this year when it comes to his social skills, but we are learning as we go.
Our next challenge will be the Staars test, he takes them this year and he's already anxious, but he will do his best and we'll see how it goes.
So the next time you are in the store and you see a parent with a child who is throwing a huge fit or a kid that is weird, please don't judge. Odds are that the kid throwing the fit is in sensory overload and having a meltdown and that parent is just trying to get the shopping done because that is his/her only time. That so called "weird kid" is doing the best he can to make friends and doesn't pick up on normal social cues. So instead of calling him/her weird, reach out and be nice.
The thing is we are all different and we are all human. God made us the way he wanted us to be and that is a beautiful thing.
The best thing you can do to help is teach your kids tolerance and to be nice to everyone, including the "weird" and socially awkward kids. They need friends too.
I didn't want to believe that my child had Autism. I ignored my gut instincts. However, I'm glad I know and we work daily with it. He's growing and learning and turning into a wonderful awesome person. He has a heart of gold and is just a sweet, sweet boy. I wouldn't change anything about him.
He has my heart!
Update March 27, 2018
My son is now 11 years old and is in 5th grade. He's doing great! We still have our challenges, but it's fun to see him come into his personality. He is lucky enough to work with a great counselor and he's learning how to manage life. He plays the violin, he loves to read, and he is now a violin player. Video games are his escape and and loves to play all sorts of them. It's hard to believe that he will be starting middle school in less that 6 months. He's growing up fast. He has become quite the comedian, in his early years he didn't understand jokes and sarcasm, now he's the first to tell a joke, and look at me and say, "stop being sarcastic mom." We were able to get his eyes fixed this year, so that was an enormous blessing. Everyday we learn something new, and everyday we learn how to navigate that new thing.