Every child has a unique personality and temperament. It shows even from the moment of birth. Many times children are difficult for parents but on occasion their difficulties can be more than just personality, it may be an Autism spectrum disorder. That is what we found out with our son. And we learned not to be afraid of the word “Autism,” many lawyers, doctors, congressman etc. are who they are, due in part to their Autism. Autism consists of a large spectrum of disorders. While an individual has weaknesses or inabilities in some areas they also have almost superhuman abilities in others. I have a firm belief that figuring it out early in their life will make the journey exceptionally easier for both parent and child.
THINGS I NOTICED FROM THE BEGINNING
Unusual and abnormal relationship bonds, lack of eye contact, and improper bonding – I got pregnant with my beautiful Jett in a great place where a lot of other moms, even first time moms like myself, were due within a few months of me. We all grew and learned as our little babies came and we took on motherhood. The first thing I noticed and recorded about my Jett was that he did not smile near as fast as the other babies. When I sang to Jett he didn’t respond in a normal way, he didn’t look up at me, no coos or smiles it was almost as if he recoiled, I didn’t think I hit the notes that bad 🙂 I remember crying when my friend brought over her 10 month old son and I watched him put his blankie over his head and shout “boo” and smile and laugh and look at his mom. Jett was 12 months and had never played and smiled at me like that. I could feel a lack of connection with my son and it made my heart hurt! Even more so because he seemed to have an almost obsession with Shane, his daddy.
Sensory sensitivities, extreme fears – Soon after his first birthday I was cooking and the fire alarm went off. Jett was not just scared he had such an overreaction it is hard to describe. He was sweating and red faced, he screamed for a long time. He would not go into a room without staring at the smoke alarm and freaking out. That fear lasted for years. Fireworks were the same way. We did not stay longer than 10 minutes at a fireworks party in the first four years of his life.
Inappropriate responses to behavior, violent behavior – When Jett was 16 1/2 months old he had a little brother slam into his life. Jett either acted like Grey did not exist or would hurt him any way he could. I could not leave Grey alone for fear of his life. Everyone told me it was normal, but I had never seen anything like it! He would kick him in the face and smile. One time he pushed Grey, about 5 months old, down a flight of stairs and laughed.
Inconsolable – Jett was 22 months when we moved from Idaho to Kentucky. As soon as we got there it started…the crying. Not just normal kid stuff, it was inconsolable screaming about 70% of the day without rhyme or reason, although less when Shane was home.
Inflexible and unusual play – If we did not stay in a rigid routine Jett would fall apart. He also did not play like a normal child. He did not pretend play or make believe. He often lined up his cars and toys in a certain order and would explode when anyone would move it in the slightest.
Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects – He would take things apart and put them back together over and over. He created a lot of his own mechanisms that functioned in amazing ways. Like the first time he saw a merry-go-round he watched it for a long time, he got down on the ground under it and watched. Then when we went home he found little objects and created his own merry-go-round.
Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level – I also noticed that Jett would tune certain kids out totally, like they didn’t exist. Other kids, he loved instantly and followed them around with obsessive like behavior. His violence continued toward Grey and began with other kids he played with. I also noticed he made very little eye contact in his interactions with adults or children.
Impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others – His language was growing a bit slow, but was different than other kids his age. He repeated himself a lot and used very few descriptive words. He seemed to use language only as a means to an end and not to communicate or connect.
My little son seemed so unhappy and I spent a lot of time feeling alone and like a failure as a mother. I knew something was not right but I didn’t know how to help Jett.
When my mom and my sister visited separately, both voiced concerns about autistic behavior in Jett. His nursery leader at church, whom has an autistic son, also told me she saw signs of Autism. These kind observations of people who cared, along with my own intuition put Shane and I into action right about the time Jett turned 3. (Please know that each time I thought my son could be on the Autism spectrum, I bawled! It was not easy for either Shane or I to accept he might have this)
GETTING THE DIAGNOSIS
Shane and I got an appointment with a child psychologist. This is directly from Jett’s psychological evaluation “He does show a very significant hyperactive/impulsive type of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (aka ADHD). His impulse arousal level is substantially elevated. He would become a good candidate for medication even at this young age. The examiner would recommend 2.5mg of Focalin, if this does not work, the other option may be 1/2 of 0.1 mg of Clonidine.” I knew that Jett did not have ADHD. I knew it like I knew the sun shines. I went to the local library and looked in the DSM under pervasive development disorders and I felt that Jett was on the high functioning Autism spectrum.
Shane and I both agreed that Jett was not going to take the meds and that he needed the right diagnosis. So, we took Jett to a Cincinnati children’s hospital and did a 3 week evaluation and got the diagnosis of pervasive development disorder not otherwise specified. PDD NOS
Although very expensive for us the diagnoses got Jett the help he needed. He was put in a preschool program with an awesome and patient teacher right away. He was put into social and speech therapy. Shane and I were able to read books and find a plethora of knowledge on how to help discipline, keep routine, feed, and show love to Jett the way he needed.
Because Shane and I do not like labels and do not think a diagnosis should be a crutch of any kind, we decided not to tell Jett he was on the spectrum. He is nine years old now and still does not know.
Two weeks ago I met with a group of teachers at Jett’s school for a re-evaluation for his IEP (Individualized education program). During the meeting we all agreed that Jett did not need any therapy or help outside the norm. His IEP was no longer needed and we celebrated this together as we discussed how well his self-control and self-esteem has improved. Not only is Jett the highest reader in his class and excelling academically, but just as important, Jett has a lot of friends and is very happy. Something I never thought possible when he was young. I thanked the Lord on the way home from the meeting for showing us through proper professional diagnosis how to help Jett early on before his negative behavioral habits set in. I know this journey has been made easier by early intervention.
Even with all the symptoms Jett had we might have just considered Jett to just have a “difficult” personality because of the high functioning nature of his behaviors, but because of God we recognized the symptoms. He now has a good chance of freeing himself from difficult behavior and wrong thinking.
Please know there is help available at any age. Even if you are an adult wondering if you may suffer from high functioning Autism you can still learn and get help. Although early intervention can help make things easier these changes can be made at any age.
A website that may help you understand these symptoms: http://www.firstsigns.org/screening/DSM4.htm
Story written by: Brooke
This story was seen first on Real Imprints.