So I'm trying to write this important post, and I don't even know where to begin.
I mean ... what do you say when you're told your son may be autistic?
I guess the first thing I thought was, "Oh. I guess that explains it."
I know I have like ten million sons (okay, just the four, but still) and you're probably wondering which one I'm referring to. Surprisingly, it's not my paper-eating five-year-old. (I know y'all were thinking, "It's got to be Cameron.") But no: I'm talking about Colin. My oldest. My almost-eight-year-old.
Many of you have been with me for a long time and know how Colin is. He's wonderful, first and foremost. "Bright" doesn't even cover it - the kid is sharp as a tack. At age four, we had him tested for giftedness, and he scored in the 99th percentile in several different areas. When he was in Kindergarten, he came home discouraged because the librarian wouldn't let him research "harlequin ichthyosis" on the computer (that's a congenital skin disorder, if - like me - you had no idea). He taught me where the cervical spine is located, and what shoulder dystocia is, and likened the stems of his cluster of grapes to the alveoli inside the lungs. These days, his interests have shifted to computer-related things, and he manipulates code like nobody's business.
But in school? He's floundering. In fact, he recently scored below grade level on one of the standardized tests - because, his teacher said, he is literally unable to pay attention for long enough to follow directions. Like, she'd read the questions out loud and the kids were supposed to mark the answer and wait for the next question; but Colin, off in la-la-land, had already filled in like the next six boxes, before the question had even been read - hence the score. There's something every day. It's the same maddening cycle we've been dealing with since he started school (see here and here), and though it ebbs and flows a little bit, it seems to have gotten worse this year. He's never had problems making friends, but his teacher tells Curtis and I that kids are starting to not want to be paired up with Colin for team projects because they know he'll just zone out and not do his part.
And I don't want any of this for him.
A few weeks ago we had a meeting with his regular classroom teacher, his gifted teacher, his principal, and the school psychologist to discuss what we could do to help him. We went in prepared to hear the inevitable, "We think he has ADD, blah blah blah." But then, Asperger's Syndrome - an autism spectrum disorder - was brought up. And a couple of the puzzle pieces went sliding into place.
See, there have always been a few quirks about Colin. One, he didn't sleep through the night until he was four years old (seriously. It's no wonder I'm half-crazy). Two, he doesn't get dizzy - like ever. Three, he despises the feeling of tags on his skin and insists that every tag be cut out of every piece of clothing. Four, he walks on his tiptoes almost all the time unless he's wearing shoes. And on separate occasions, I have researched all these things just out of curiosity. And on all counts, the search results have always mentioned autism. But I brushed that off because I was ignorant. When I heard the word "autism" I was guilty of thinking about someone who was unable to function for themselves, and my child was the total opposite of that - right?
But that doesn't mean I wasn't wrong.
Autism spectrum disorders are just that: on a spectrum. Which means that, while there are people with autism who can barely function, there are those on the other end of the scale that just have a few "symptoms" to deal with.
The psychologist gave Curtis and I an extensive questionnaire to fill out, and one to his teacher. Based on the results, he is "Very Likely" to have Asperger's. We've got to take him to an independent psychologist to get an official diagnosis, but as of right now, that's what it seems to be leaning toward.
So now we have to figure out what to do ... how to address this ... how to help our son. And just when I think I'm comfortable with that - with the fact that he might possibly fall onto the autism spectrum - I read articles like this which basically talk about how gifted children are so often misdiagnosed as autistic or ADHD. And any confidence I had built up just sort of crumbles.
Why can't this crap be easy? Any words of wisdom for a fellow (ridiculously clueless) parent?