Tuesday, May 27, 2008
I Don't Know Why It Still Surprises Me.
Ever since Peanut was a toddler, we've used the phrase "developmental issues" to explain to strangers and acquaintances his odd and/or problematic behavior. To family and friends, he's just Peanut being Peanut, but every now and again some of the clothing-chewing, mouth-stuffing, spinning, rocking, bouncing, flapping behavior would come back and we might find ourselves at a party explaining, for the ease of understanding, that he was "mildly autistic." As he has changed and developed, we started to understand much more clearly what his strengths and weaknesses were, and that meant we were pretty much expecting the PDD-NOS diagnosis we received this spring. Last week, we had an IEP meeting to discuss his transition from one school to another, from preschool to kindergarden. It went very, very well, and included some amazing news about a grant that will provide extra staffing. It looks like he and a couple other children on IEPs will be grouped together in a regular kindergarden classroom. There will probably be 18 or so children in the class total, and some of the non-IEP children will be half-day students, so it will be an even smaller class in the afternoons. There will be the regular teacher and a part-time teacher's aide for the class, and thanks to the funding that came through, there will also be a specially trained full time co-teacher responsible for the 4 children on IEPs and a special education aide as well. This is what we wanted for Peanut's kindergarden year: a high teacher ratio, as much inclusion in the regular classroom as he can handle, a teacher or an aide with specialized behavioral training. They relied heavily on the independent evaluation we had done, and we spent a long time discussing ways to prepare him for the big changes next fall. As we were wrapping up and going over everything, we came to the part that startled me. They brought up the fact that his current educational diagnosis, which was assigned to him as he entered preschool 2 years ago, fell into the "developmental delay" category. Given all the changes we have seen in him, as well as the clinical diagnosis of PDD-NOS, we all agreed that he should be re-classified as "autistic spectrum disorder." No surprise, right? I mean, duh - we've been saying he's mildly autistic for years, we've received an official clinical diagnosis, and hello? He's autistic. Not profoundly autistic, not by a long shot, but definitely On The Spectrum. Except it still startles me to hear that. Hard as it may be to believe, it catches me unaware. Who, me? I have an autistic child? Really? Are you sure? Because I don't think of him as autistic, obviously. I think of him as emotionally fragile, easily excited, smart as a whip. It's weird, because unlike some parents I've talked to, I've never shied away from "labeling" him. It always seemed to me to be the best way to get the services that have helped him, and it's honestly one of those things I didn't think too much about. I just never felt like "The Mother Of An Autistic Child" before this IEP meeting. I guess I was too busy being, you know, "Peanut's mom."