Monday, April 6, 2009

Autism Awareness & our son's diagnosis

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and that may be why I have been thinking of the day I first heard the possibility that my son had Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder that is sometimes described as having "a touch of autism." We had known from his late infancy that Jonah is stubborn, and I had begun to describe him as being like the little girl who had a little curl, in the nursery rhyme, "when she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid!" There were times when he just refused to do what was expected of him, especially at church.

Some very insightful observations on the part of his pre-K teacher led me to go through ChildLink in Philadelphia, to see if there might be any reasons for his difficulties with conducting himself in some social settings. I never expected an actual diagnosis, and when the evaluation team was in perfect agreement that Jonah fit the description of a child with Asperger's, I was completely stunned. I had only heard of it once or twice in the pediatrician's office where I worked, and whenever it was mentioned by one of the other administrative staff, it was with pity or a shaking head.

It didn't help that my then-husband was in the emergency room with another episode of a chronic illness. I had to get home for my older son, who was coming home from school. I kept looking at Jonah, wondering what had happened. How did I not know? Is it because I took anti-depressants when I was pregnant and nursing?

Fortunately, it only took a day for me to look back in my rearview mirror at my little boy, and realize that he had not changed at all. He was just as loving, just as funny and happy, and stubborn, as he had been the week before. There was just more information about the things that challenge him, information that would not have been so available when I was a child. I am grateful for that, that I could go online and google Asperger's Syndrome, and find information that made it more real to me, and that helped me to find the right resources for us, especially other parents with children on the spectrum. If you have recently had a child diagnosed with Apserger's or another ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I would encourage you to seek out other families who have been through it, and feel free to send me a message.

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