We’ve made a pretty big decision as a family. We decided that it’s time to have T evaluated for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) and if we’re really honest, it’s likely past due. T is six and has been in OT since 3/2010 for his Sensory Integration issues. As he gets older, these issues have changed a lot, but show no signs of going away anytime soon. On the contrary, some of his sensory issues have actually gotten worse. To be fair, we have not been as good as we should be at home with his sensory diet, and we let him have too much screen time… I could go on blaming our parenting for days.
What has led us to seek further evaluations hasn’t really been the sensory issues though. Being mainstreamed into kindergarten from a developmental (read: special needs) preschool, has shown us how different socially he is from his typical peers. We have been watching closely over the past several months, and what we are seeing is a child who doesn’t know how to read people, and thus has extreme problems connecting with them.
T has been having problems with aggressive behaviors at school. When we heard about the hitting and shoving that he’s been doing, we talked both to him and to the Behavior Intervention person at his school. It seems that he has been feeling threatened by the other children. He says that the looks on their faces scare him and that he’s afraid that they are going to “attack him and send him to the ER” so he lashes out first. A preemptive strike, if you will. We’ve noticed this same reaction at home, and the fact that he only seems to be able to accurately read a happy facial expression. Everything else looks angry to him.
T doesn’t seem to have any real friends at school, and the one or two kids that he does play with, often get intimidated by his aggressive behavior, or his very intense need to have them play only with him. So he is very often left feeling like he has no one at school. The Behavior Intervention person at his school points out that he plays alone most of the time, and T tells us that he has no friends. He says that every day when he walks into his classroom there is a chorus of “uh-ohs” from his classmates, and that he feels confused and sad.
Another thing that strikes us as being different from his peers is his inability to join in imaginative play of other children. He has a great imagination when he is playing alone, but he does not seem to be able to extend that to include imagination games that other kids have started. He will point out that what they are doing and/or saying makes no sense, and that it’s just pretend…Or more accurately, “just fiction.”
For example, he had a playdate with our neighbor and she was describing an altercation between her stuffed animals to see which one got to come on the playdate. They “wrestled” for the honor, and the winner won the right to come to the playdate. T just looked at her, and said, “you know that’s impossible don’t you? They are just stuffed animals and can’t fight. You can make them roll around, but they didn’t fight. That’s fiction,” It was a strange interaction. He was absolutely unable to suspend disbelief long enough to join in the fantasy. I’ve seen this behavior many, many times since then, and I’m guessing that if I had been paying more attention I would have noticed it before too.
There are several other reasons we believe that T is on the spectrum, though very high functioning. These are just a few of the things that have stood out to me in the past couple of months. We do not think that getting a diagnosis will do anything more than open up more tools to use to support T, mainly at school.
The evaluation process is daunting, but the result will be what it will be. The most unfortunate part is that we will not have finished the evaluation process before we have to redo T’s IEP. I’m hoping that if he does receive a diagnosis that we can make changes to the IEP as necessary to support the new diagnosis, and get him the extra tools he needs for him to not merely squeak by at school, but to thrive there. So, for this reason, we jump into the unknown territory of the ASD evaluation process.