I have these two little boys. They are awesome. Of course I think so, I’m their mom. But ask just about anybody, they will agree that for the most part, they are indeed awesome! Really. So, like most creatures in the human species with any self awareness, my kiddos have some challenges.
Each of the boys have had IEP’s (Individual Education Plans) since preschool. These were created in Colorado. However, we moved to Atlanta in the middle of Taylor’s Kindergarten year. Georgia accepted the IEP’s but stated the boys would need to re-qualify for services, (IEP’s) under Georgia rules and regulations. This means that the stack of fill in the bubble tests were sent home (again) along with the 10 page questionnaire about each kids arrival into the world. Did I have a full term pregnancy, were there any complications, did I smoke crack while pregnant, or anything else, at what age did they sit up, talk, form a word, form a sentence, did I notice anything different about them? On and on and on it goes piling on guilt and shame and blame that somehow your kid should be normal and you have screwed him up by being the closet drunk and junkie we are sure you must be because kids don’t just turn out like this otherwise! Apparently I am generally an unfit mother too, because I have no stinking idea what date my kids passed their toddler-hood milestones. What I remember is taking them regularly to their pediatrician for all their well baby visits and that the doctors felt that they were where they were supposed to be from a healthy kid standpoint. Who cares what day it all came together!! So regarding these questions I did what any good mother would do and I googled baby development and what was a normal age for the stuff to happen and I made up dates that fit.
Anyway, I could go on and on about the tests. Bottom line, while they are there to best provide the assistance needed for the individual, they are painful and shame soaked.
The meeting date arrived after all the data had been collected on each kid and each specialist was there with their conclusion about what the issues were and if each boy qualified for services (IEP’s). While part of the parent inside of me wants them to be found to be perfect little students who just need more vitamin C and they will be right as rain, (or some such simple fix) the practical person inside me is begging that they will qualify for the services they so obviously need.
So there we were all around the big conference table I didn’t even know existed in the tiny little school. Every time I have met there before, I have had the pleasure of sitting in a cute little chair 10 inches off the ground pulled up to a table 18 inches high. But not today for the big important verdict. Three pages or so into the full report on Taylor I read something that went sort of like, “We find Taylor to qualify for services based on a highly probable diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder.” At the time I was unphased by the statement. Absolutely, I said to myself. I have known that for years! What I didn’t expect was how heavy that reality was going to bear down on me in the coming weeks. One kid down, one to go.
Now, Peyton is a shear delight. He brightens up the whole room wherever he is. I have been at the school and had teachers ask me if I’m Peyton’s mom then proceed to tell me how he has brightened their day. But, and there is usually a but, he is struggling to focus on his lessons. He is impulsive and passionate. Not bad qualities I dare say, but clearly difficult to manage in a room of 23 six year-olds. Given the results of his tests he was found not to have a learning disability. He did not qualify for services. Though it was concluded that he very likely has ADHD, he would need to receive a medical diagnosis in order to continue to receive services.
Are you kidding!?
It’s been two months since that meeting. A few weeks ago after a struggle with the insurance company to justify it, I took Peyton to a Developmental Pediatrician. But not before I completed my homework for that visit. What was the homework? More surveys and bubble tests of course! (Why don’t I ever save a copy of these things?) This round of questions and bubbles I didn’t fight as hard. In my mind was just there to get my official ADHD diagnosis so Peyton could continue with his services. Also, maybe this doctor would have more insight on how to parent kids like mine and have some suggestions for summer camps, and other remedial stuff like that. I was tired really. The waiting room, or living room rather, as the practice is in a building that is a house, was cold. I wanted to lay down on the couch and take a nap. A combination of physical tiredness and emotional overload, and I felt a headache coming on just to top it all off. I must have been looking fairly relaxed by the time it was our turn to see the doctor as he did ask me something to the effect if I needed a blanket or another pillow.
He asked me what brought us to him and what I was seeing in Peyton to which I wondered to myself, haven’t you looked at the bubble test and the notes I sent in? But I went on trying to describe my son. Trying to verbalize my thoughts and feelings, which has never been a strong point for me. And while I’m stumbling over words and jumbling up my thoughts I’m very aware of how stupid I am sounding. But this kind doctor listens and nods and watches Peyton as I talk. Finally he picks up the bubble test and questionnaire.
We discussed more of what makes up Peyton as well as the scores on the tests from both myself and his teacher. He paused and reconfirmed with me that I had mentioned that Peyton’s older brother was found to be on the spectrum. I confirmed that it was the case. He paused thoughtfully and said, “What would you think about Peyton being on the spectrum as well?” A bit like a deer looks in headlights was probably what my silent response was like. Given an individualized explanation of the 6 qualifiers of the spectrum, it made sense that Peyton fit into it. But knowing that ADHD is intertwined in the spectrum often, I asked point blank, “Is ADHD off the table then?” As he glanced over at Peyton engrossed in what he was playing with, where he had been sitting doing the same thing for several minutes, he responded, “Yes.”
I had two main thoughts when I left that office. One was, at least I only have to learn about one primary disorder instead of two. The other was, as challenging as this all is, its nice to have it pegged. While these symptoms and idiosyncrasies have been part of my life since the boys arrival into my world, I have to put aside that they may grow out of being ‘different’. I have to let go of the idea that kindergarten was hard, but he’ll grow in the summer and be more mature for first grade. While I don’t see these challenges as negative and I understand that they will grow and they will mature and there is help wildly available to get them to a place to perform to be the best they can be, I have embraced that this autism thing, high functioning as it is, is part of our lives forever.