One year ago today I started my new job here in North Carolina. And our family began the three month journey towards a new diagnosis for my first born son. The move was so tumultuous for him that his behavior spun out of control, and certain things that I had blamed on poor parenting or him just "being a boy," could not be explained away anymore. It became very clear to our new community that there was something not right about Jackson. I had no idea what it might be...I thought there might be some Sensory Processing Disorder traits, so I bought three books and started reading. We started OT which definitely helped a little. We took him to a doctor who suggested ADHD. We tried meds, which made him go CRAZY, so we turned off that road. Someone mentioned Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and I just had thoughts of kids torturing animals (thanks to my psychology training in med school), and I didn't think that quite fit. JW and I prayed and prayed that we would figure this out. That someone would point us in the right direction. Because of his behavior problems in Sunday School, our Sunday School director suggested a play group called "Let's Be Friends," a meeting of typically and atypically developing kids to get together in a safe space to work on social skills. That sounded like a good idea, especially since he was kicked out/nicely asked to take a break from preschool until we could figure out what was going on. It was there that the leader of the play group started asking me questions about Jackson. I was hoping she would be able to help lead me in the right direction. She got me an appointment for an IEP (Individualized Education Program) evaluation through the public school, and we waited a month for the appointment. In the meantime, as I was at home processing one night, the list of questions that the nice lady had asked me clicked. She was asking me the screening criteria for autism!! I freaked. I had never considered that diagnosis. Jackson had never had any problems with speech, so I didn't even think about it. I went to my favorite place...Google! I typed in "diagnosis of" and wouldn't you know, it auto-filled "aspergers syndrome." Weird. So I read through the criteria and thought it kind of fit. I got used to the words of autism, autism spectrum, asperger's. We had the IEP eval. We had to come back the next day for a longer eval specifically for autism. Of course. One month later, we sat in the same room to hear the results. They first said "developmental delay." That sounds so benign. I can live with that. Get him some therapies, he'll be good to go. Then they moved on to, "And he tested positive for autism as well." Like it was no big deal. It wasn't a surprise, but I was still hoping it wasn't true. I didn't FEEL like being a mom to a special needs kid. I just wanted to be REGULAR. I cried. The people handed me Kleenex. I decided to move on. At least I had a NAME for what was going on. I had a TOPIC to search for and books to read about. I WASN'T a bad mom, and Jackson WASN'T a bad kid. So it was actually great news!
9 months later, we've done OT, speech therapy, special education, TEACCH services (the local autism center in Chapel Hill), and even a parenting class. Jackson is attending regular kindergarten this year and thriving. I wouldn't say that his success is due to all of the therapies or picture schedules. I think it's mostly because JW and I have adjusted to the "new normal." We are more relaxed. We know how to reach Jackson in a way that he will understand. We know how to manage his environment to make it a safe and calm place to live instead of a place filled with sensory overload. I have to yell less. And love more.
I am so proud to be the mom of a special needs kid. It has strengthened my faith and my marriage. And I am so proud of my little boy. God has big plans for him, and though they may not be my plans, they are AWESOME.
If you are visiting from Kelly's Korner, thank you!