It was obvious during the exam that he didn’t have a problem with this skill, he even found the test humorous and could easily indicate when someone was grouchier than another. At the end of the test I asked the doctor a few more questions regarding his final diagnosis of anxiety.
I asked him, “What did you think of the information we provided you? (this included the feedback from grandparents and other relatives along with teachers and a close friend regarding what they observed in our son since he was 2 years old.)
He looked puzzled and said that he didn’t recollect this information.
I then asked him what he thought of the school psychologist’s observation? Again he looked confused.
So I asked, “Did you read all of the information we gave you?”
He said, “I admit that I did not.”
Though I appreciated his honesty, I was upset. I felt my heart sink with disappointment. Didn’t he value the input we had to share, wouldn’t that give a more complete picture of our son’s behaviors besides his observations inside a clinical observation room? Plus, I worked so hard on providing him that feedback, the least he could’ve done was read it, it would have taken less time than it took for me to wait in the waiting room that day.
Moving on from this disappointment I asked him many more questions in trying to understand his final assessment. He did admit that though he did not see autism, he did see something, but he wasn’t sure what it was. He drew me a picture with a long line and said that a “normal” person would be on the left side of the line and a person with very clear autism (trouble speaking etc.) would be on the right side. He said he would put my son in the middle.
As I sat there I remembered the final thing the doctor said to me before I left the last appointment. He said with a smile, “You should be happy because your son does not have autism.”
I recalled a few days later when I took my son to the yogurt shop where we were surprised to see our friends and I watched my son withdraw and go into a total meltdown because, “it’s too loud and too crowded and I don’t want to play with kids.” At that moment I chuckled as I thought of the doctor’s final comment, thinking to myself, I don’t feel so happy. My son has challenges, similar to those with autism, yet he can’t get the help those kids get. Instead of occupational therapy for sensory issues, I was told to read a book to learn how to help him fit in.
As I explained this experience to the doctor, I told him, “He may not have autism, but he has a lot of challenges and he needs some help!”
With that he said that he would request in his report that the school evaluate him to see if he qualifies for occupational therapy, but warned me that he may not be severe enough to qualify. Considering our school district, I already know what the outcome will be—no occupational therapy.
The doctor then explained that he thinks that the underlining cause for all of my son’s symptoms is a mood disorder.
Ah.... a mood disorder, welcome back old enemy.
He explained that maybe the reason that our son is showing these autistic traits, especially in the “real world” is because his moods affect his ability to function. His depression and anxiety shut down his desire to be social, makes him cling to routine and meltdown over transitions. It also intensifies his sensory expereince and affects his ability to focus and function in everyday tasks. Which is why during the assessments, which were conducted in a room free of all outside stimulus, he appeared to communicate well, have good eye contact etc. He also said that when a chid has a highly focused interest, as seen in kids with high functioning ASD, they do not take electronics into consideration. So my son’s intense interest in the Minecraft computer game was not considered in his assessment.
He also told me that along with therapy, I should look into the Social Communications Disorder (as mentioned in our last meeting) and also NonVerbal Learning Disorder NLVD. But he felt pretty strong that mood issues were the underlining cause.
I asked, “So this is a lot like what my oldest has, except that it presents itself differently?”
He said, “I couldn’t have said it better.”
* * *
It’s been 2 weeks since this appointment. We met with our psychiatrist yesterday and he acknowledged how hard it is for kids who have autism traits, but lack the severity to get services. He recognized that they still need help so he told me to find out on my own how to help him, using treatment for Asperger kids as a guide. He also said that he wasn’t convinced that our youngest would struggle like our oldest had, instead he felt that he would do well as he matured.
Would do you think?