Autism awareness month continues …
Remember I mentioned earlier that the whole Autism deal is like taking two steps forward and one step back continually? And that when we’re in the latter phase, it’s hard not to feel pulled back into a black hole of despair? Well, now that we seem (touch wood!) to be through the worst of the last eight weeks, let me share a little about the ‘one step back’ phase we’ve been in.
As you know, James started Year One at the beginning of this year. James settled into the Year really well. As I’ve said many times, his teacher is fantastic and just beautiful with him. So early on, he established a great relationship with her and he was with the same group of kids, so that was great too. However, there are many more expectations of a child once they hit Year One. The day is a little more rigorous, more structured and they are expected to produce more and without a certain time frame. This caused some challenges and impacted on his behaviour hugely.
In about week 4 of term, we had a long standing appointment with a Child Psychiatrist in Brisbane. We had made this appointment the previous year as he was experiencing extreme anxiety and his medication just wasn’t holding it. Paediatrician’s can medicate, but once the medication situation gets in any way complicated, you are referred on to a Child Psychiatrist as they are specialists in the medication aspect of things. In the lead up to this consultation the teachers took lots of observations. James has huge issues remaining in his seat, often pacing in circles or retreating to the tent in the rear of the classroom. Sometimes when you observe these kids it’s hard to work out what is actually driving a behaviour. Is he pacing because he’s stressed or is he out of his seat due to ADHD or impulsivity issues? Is he pacing because of his sensory issues or because he’s tiring too easily?
So off we went to the Child Psychiatrist. She is a really lovely woman, about my age, and she interacted beautifully with James which is always a bonus! Chris and I had to go on our own to the first appointment. I reminded Chris that this appointment was as much about checking us out as it was about James, and that he should try to keep his pacing/ADHD like traits contained!!! Imagine my amusement when he got the once over within half an hour of our arrival!! And that’s Lesson #2 in life with autism. Once your child is diagnosed everyone wants to know where did this come from? Whose side of the family is responsible? How did this happen? And then you start thinking, goodness, am I ASD myself? Or maybe Chris is? It’s insane! I find this thinking interesting only from a research perspective. On a personal level I find this thinking futile. I have a beautiful little boy with autism – I just want to get about helping him – looking backwards and theorising is pointless!
The following day, I took James down to Brisbane for his appointment. He cried and screamed the entire way. He was worried about seeing her because he didn’t know her, he didn’t know where her house was, he didn’t know what her room was like! On and on and on! When we arrived, we were kept waiting for nearly an hour. The previous day she had informed us of her dislike of the excessive use of screens but after ten minutes, I’d amped up my personal hotspot, connected my iPad, put headphones on James and had located a Clone Wars Episode! That was the SOLE reason we survived waiting the hour!!!
When she came (finally!) to get us from the waiting room, James started screaming and hid under the chairs. I asked her to go to her room and that we’d follow in a moment. I talked him through it and we went to her room. Well … he interacted with every surface in her room! He touched all the walls, he rolled all over the floor, bounced and launched himself off the fitball, spun himself around and around, and the grand finale … he licked along the straight lines on her blinds!!!! Oh my God! Seriously! Clearly, he was getting overstimulated and in the spirit of not wanting his behaviour to escalate to meltdown point, I intervened however the doctor wanted me to let him go so she could observe. That was really hard to do! And I admit to also thinking … well good on YOU love!! You’re not the one who’s going to have to drive home to Toowoomba with a shrieking and hysterical child for the next two hours after he crashes and burns from overstimulation!! Rationally, I knew she had to see it, so I let it go!
She diagnosed James with ADHD. And why wouldn’t she based on that particular snap shot? I wasn’t so sure as I knew his anxiety was a huge contributor to his overactive behaviour. She also diagnosed him with Generalised Anxiety Disorder which we were already aware of. She advised and we agreed that we should trial the ADHD medication first given that this behaviour impacted most on his learning. He screamed the whole way home! I had two ‘time out’ moments for me on the way home and we started the medication that night! And this is where the real ‘one step back’ stuff begins … more on that tomorrow!!!