Well, another day has passed and again the speech therapist seems to think Tyoma’s autistic. She sweetened it with a “But he would be clearly a very high functioning autistic”.
Say what! The problem is that she hasn’t really formed any sort of a bond with him, so he ignores her completely. She doesn’t quite seem to believe that when she’s not around, he has normal eye contact, and he is very affectionate to boot. Trust me, if I even suspected that he was autistic, I’d be all over the place trying to get him the services he needs! Maybe the problem is mine, I hear “autism” and think of the term as it was used when I was young—a crippling disorder that means a life in an institution. Remember Rain Man? He is a high functioning autistic. I can’t reconcile those images with the child I have, who is admittedly different, but not pathologically so. I pray this is not me living in some sort of denial, but that is my gut feeling and strong belief.
Since June, when I first heard “let’s rule out autism” from Tyoma’s pediatrician, I read up on it. Tyoma had an evaluation; he was diagnosed with an expressive language delay (not autism!) And speech therapy sessions were set up for twice a month. All but one of those sessions has turned into an autism inquisition. I feel that too much time is spent quizzing me on his behavior and too little time is spent connecting to Tyoma. Granted, it doesn’t help that Tyoma has had an unending cold since August (due to preschool) or that her only available appointment time is in the late afternoon (his worst time of day). I think that she’s overwhelming Tyoma with too many new toys and activities and that he reacts negatively to her amped up enthusiasm.
I realize that high functioning autism and Asperger’s are not doom diagnoses (I know totally cool folks with Asperger’s!). My primary concern is that my son will be mislabeled, receive inappropriate treatment and/or be put in an environment that stifles his giftedness. Giftedness is part of the problem. Tyoma is gifted to the point that people might be confusing it with autism, since some of the signs of autism spectrum disorders (good attention span, lining up toys, excellent memory, precocious learning skills, and delayed social development) parallel giftedness. In fact, a subgroup of analytically gifted children also has language delays as well. Our speech therapist acknowledges his giftedness, but focuses on his patent ignoring of her and seems to give little credence to my reports of him being “normal” when she’s not around. Sigh.
Don’t get me wrong, I like our SLP. She is very conscientious and clearly concerned about Tyoma, but there is a disconnect. She isn’t able to reach him and I want to blame her, not an illness that I’m not convinced he has. In a week I’ll be seeing Tyoma’s pediatrician. We’ll see what she has to say.