Those of you who know Jane & I will know Daniel. Naturally, he appears as the subject of a blog now and then. As I said in yesterday’s offering, he’s a warm, kind, loving little lad. Its how he’s always been. During his toddler stage though, it had become blatantly obvious that something wasn’t quite right. We had wondered if it were just a behavioural problem – that he was simply a badly behaved little boy. We tried sessions with our Health Visitor exploring his emotional growth. That proved to a false hope. No progress there. Then Jane tried the Triple P programme ( http://www.triplep.net/glo-en/home) – that had limited results. It wasn’t that.
I think though right through those processes though, at the back of our minds was an obvious answer we were deliberately avoiding. 2 years prior to that, we had Matthew diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. Although Daniel exhibited a lot of different behaviours from Matthew, there were enough similarities to make us think that it might have been an ASD. After the failure of looking at Daniel’s emotions and Triple P, we were prepared to examine the possibility that he had an ASD. We decided to not beat about the bush and went to our GP. We explained about Daniel’s behaviour and what we’d tried and that we wanted a referral to the Family & Mental Health Unit at the Children’s hospital in Aberdeen. Surprisingly, he instantly agreed, and we were on the diagnostic road.
One year ago, we received a letter inviting Daniel to an appointment with one of the clinical psychologists at the RACH (the hospital) in Aberdeen. They had already been in touch with the school at which Daniel attended nursery. It was gratifying to have read the nursery teacher’s report to see that although Daniel restrained himself at nursery, she had seen some of the behaviours we recognised. He was uncomfortable amongst his peers, would look in on groups from the periphery, would be reluctant to engage in eye contact. It was good to see that we weren’t just trying to read something that wasn’t there. Of course, it had been impossible to ignore his behaviour. He could be very difficult, verbally and physically aggressive to the point of being violent. He would have meltdowns that would end just as suddenly as they had began. Jane had done some research, and we started to consider Pathological Demand Avoidance Syndrome ( http://www.autism.org.uk/about-autism/related-conditions/pda-pathological-demand-avoidance-syndrome.aspx) as he seemed to tick a lot of its boxes.
We went armed with this and the school report to see the Psychologist. We were careful not to straight out say we thought he was ASD. We described his behaviours to her and she observed him while we talked. She asked D a few questions, and to our huge shock, 45 minutes into the appointment she told us she had heard enough from us with consideration to the school report and from a brief observation of Daniel to diagnose him with Asperger’s syndrome. It was no real surprise I think, but such a huge shock that it was as quick as that. Matthew’s diagnosis took nearly 18 months (although he was too young for the appropriate tests as he was under four when referred.) She said she would have a one-on-one session with Daniel. That only served to further confirm her diagnosis and our fears.
We’re a year down the line now, and we’re still learning to live with our Aspie’s uniqueness. He’s managed to thrive at school despite it all. He’s high fuinctioning autism, so his ability to learn isn’t in doubt. His self esteem and confidence is fragile though, and it doesn’t take much to knock him back. Yesterday’s post tells you that. Although Jane & I are sad we’ve given him a label, and have given others something that will let them discriminate against Daniel I’m glad we have done what we did. Daniel will get the help he needs to give him a chance to be the best person he can be.
I think the lesson we learned – and the advice I’d pass on to anyone else in a similar situation – is that its always best to follow your instinct. Most of us aren’t psychologists, but we intuitively know when something is wrong with our children. Its a bit of a cliche, but we are the experts when it comes to our own children. We will get opposition along the way, but just keep battering away to get the answers you need. Turned out our instincts didn’t let us down. Thankfully we had Daniel’s diagnosis just months into his P1 year at school. They were not armed with the knowledge they needed to begin to help Daniel at school. He’s surprised even us. He’s very clever indeed, and he’s showing it. He loves his numbers, and is already an avid reader.
So, one year on it is. Our little aspie is getting there and we’re well on the way in our journey with him. Just remember, follow your gut, and it won’t let you down. You’ll be thankful you did, and so will your little darling!