Friday, July 9, 2010

"The Spectrum"

This post has been typed multiple times, saved, edited, deleted, saved again. A lot of swirling thoughts that I wanted to piece together eloquently. Well, coherent or not, it's posting. Thank you Joanna for (unknowingly) pushing me to do so.

Let me take you (and myself) back to the beginning. The day that the word "autism" made itself an unwelcome guest in our home. Jack had just turned two. Harvey was the ripe old age of three months and we were ALL still getting used to our new life together. We were having some work done in our backyard and needed to get Jack out of the house so we walked down to the park. On our way back up I thought we'd knock on our neighbors door to see if we could run Jack around their backyard for a while. They of course welcomed us in, their kids were painting and they offered Jack a seat. I commented that Jack wasn't quite mature enough for painting. He was interested in the paintbrush and took off with it into their backyard. Not ten minutes later he started melting down about something and I muttered to Justin that in social situations Jack sure acted like he had autism.

The following day we went to a family member's house and Jack was giving a grand performance of terrible behavior. Opting out of play with the children in favor of testing me over and over by climbing their dining room table! I brought up that meltdowns had become typical and that I thought Jack was having a hard time adjusting to the transition of having a new baby in the house. It was then that Justin repeated my autism comment to her. I tried to justify my terrible comment, that it wasn't funny, that I was only trying to excuse Jack's behavior but I saw "the look" on her face. And I've seen it from others since...that look is concern. And it scared the crap out of me.

A week or so later she called Justin and expressed that she thought Jack may indeed HAVE autism. Knowing her well I know that she had taken a lot of consideration into making that call and did it with the best of intentions. I still felt like the wind had been knocked out of me. Not because I didn't see the symptoms (der, I made the comment afterall, it was I who invited the word into our conversation) but because someone suspected it on a serious level and I had to face that suspicion. My gut reaction was no. No way. Yes I could see the symptoms but don't all kids climb furniture and have meltdowns and have trouble socializing with a twosome they don't see often? Well of course the answer to that is no but that is where my mind was. I clung to all the typical behavior of Jack's and the big fat red flags that he did not possess.

I called my aunt and her husband (who works with special needs individuals and their families) came over and spent a little time interacting with Jack looking for signs. He told me that a speech delay was possible but that he didn't suspect an autism spectrum disorder. This helped my worry, for about a day. I placed a call to the school district looking for direction with early intervention which took for-freaking-ever. I told them I suspected a language disorder but wanted a full evaluation done. When the evaluaton finally happened I was so anxious. It was HARD on him, three full hours of demands and commands. At one point one of the therapists banged on the table at him! Justin later said he thought that was all calculated. That they wanted to see him perform under stress and maybe they banged on the table to see if he'd flinch or cry, to see if he acted like he was ever hit at home. That made sense and made me feel better. I also talked to several others whose children or friend's children had a really rough time getting through the evaluation.

A week later we met to discuss the results of their assesment. He did not score onto the autism spectrum according to the CARS scale they used. They did give him a speech and language IEP and Jack has been attending the provided therapies ever since.

Now you would think that all that gave me peace of mind right? Wrong. I have read read and read some more on autism. And I did finally come to a place of acceptance with "the spectrum". Autism is a list of symptoms. The medical community rests at "no known cause" though I'm fairly certain any combination of environmental insults combined with some type of genetic predisposition are responsible. I am certain vaccines do NOT cause autism but that they are environmental insults and CAN cause autism. I shutter to think where we would be had we vaccinated. So yes, Jack displays some symptoms of autism. Allergies, leaky gut, heavy metal toxicty, language and fine motor delays, and some anxieties. Diagnostically speaking these do not equal autism but if there is a spectrum for autism there must also be a spectrum for the typical and Jack fits somewhere between I'm sure.

Where I believe these symptoms stem from is overall health. Our poor boy has an immune system that fights against him more than for him. You all know the ins and outs of his allergies (although I don't think anyone can keep track other than me). The time when his behaviors kicked in we were feeding him soy and wheat, foods that we now know cause some SERIOUS issues within his system and may have even caused his leaky gut. I can really beat myself up if I dwell on this for more than five minutes so I must forge ahead. This is why we focus so heavily on diet, supplements, and homeopathy. They are giving true results and bringing our boy (and ME) relief and happiness.

I should have typed all this a long time ago but I think I was still walking on eggshells about what I did/didn't want to put out into the universe - it's already all out there, it's just the word that was missing. So there you have it, the good, the bad, and the autism.

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