Friday, September 15, 2006

Aspbergers: The Beginning of a New and Very Different Year

As usual, summer flew. Here it is September again, the start of a new school year, and always for me, the most stressful time. I love fall, but loathe the change -- shorter, colder days, the end of the lighter traffic and lighter moods of summer.

This year's just a difficult to kick off for me. I resolved (yes, I actually make resolutions at the beginning of the *school* year) to get up earlier, work out for 20 minutes, and then get the kids off to daycare before 9:00. But with Iggy still not sleeping through the night, and Oz suddenly waking up with him, it's hard to face the still-dark morning. And with the boys adjusting to their new teachers and curricula, plus my biggest work project due in less than two weeks...I'm cutting myself some slack.

There's a new hurtle, too. It's the reason I haven't blogged in over a month. If you've been with me for the last 2-1/2 years, you know I don't usually stay away from the blog for that long. If you something was wrong, you guessed right.

Not long after #1 son's 5th birthday, we managed to get in with the developmental pediatrician. She was a terrific doctor -- wonderful with little B, and wonderful with me, as well. Our appointment lasted more than three hours, during which time I was interviewed about little B, and he was given a bunch of activities to perform -- drawing, writing, building with blocks -- and interviewed, as well.

The school district's preschool disabled program and B's child study team had arranged the appointment, and they were paying for it. They wanted a diagnosis so that they could provide additional services for him. I questioned whether he needed anything more than the great services he already had, which included PT and OT, but was happy to schedule the evaluation.

In terms of a diagnosis, I expected to hear that he was dyspraxic, or that he just had poor gross motor skills, and he'd outgrow this. Or that somehow, as a result of his asthma or years of inhaled steroids, he'd developed some unusual sensory issues, but that he'd outgrow them.

What I wasn't expecting was a diagnosis of Aspergers Syndrome.

Children don't outgrow Aspergers. In fact, Aspergers becomes harder to manage as they get older, becuase that's when they begin to realize that they're not like other kids. Or at least, that they're not treated like other kids.

It had been suggested years before that little B had Aspergers. When he was 2 and obsessively opening and closing cupboard doors, even we thought he might have it. But every doctor under the sun ensured us that he would be fine, he made great eye contact, he was very social, there was no way he was on the autistic spectrum.

So I was pretty well blindsided on August 10.

Aspergers is not a death sentence. Even in my horrified state, I was fully aware that nothing had changed. B was still B -- the same wonderful little boy he'd been five minutes before his diagnosis. Still gregarious, sweet and smart as ever.

The drive home was a challenge -- I had to quickly convince myself that the diagnosis was a positive. It was a tool that would both help us understand B's "quirks" and enable him to receive more services through the school district.

Why the rush? Because my husband would be a lot slower to take on this viewpoint. He would need the time to grieve the loss of his perfect goalie, his future Toronto Maple Leaf. I had to be the pillar. I had to be positive or he'd pull me into the sorrow with him -- and for B's sake, I wasn't going.

So, here we are, a month later. We decided to keep B out of Kindergarten this year, at the suggestion of the Child Study Team. He'll stay in daycare (yes, I really do have three kids in daycare) and continue to do the preschool disabled program 4 half-days per week through June. We'll take things one day at a time and see where we go from there.

It's a sad September, partially because he's NOT in Kindergarten, and in my eyes, he's ready. But I recognize that have to trust the doctors and the CST better than my eyes.

It's also sad because now, I've got to keep a secret from his new friends, and that's just not in my nature. But it's important that his friends - and their parents - see him as an equal and don't treat him any differently.

For now, his social skills are pretty normal. He makes friends easily, and even though his teachers a daycare (who, by and large, are not in the know) feel there's something special and different about him, it's something they see as a positive -- a sweetness and naivete that sets him apart from the other children.

My eyes are on the future. My feeling is that for B, is as bright and as promising as ever. I just have to keep everyone around me believe that -- B, most of all.

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