Speech Therapy and Autism Questions

Well, another day passed, and again the speech therapist dropped hints about autism. She sweetened her notions with a “But he would be clearly a very high functioning autistic!”

Say what! The problem is she has formed no bond with him, so he ignores her. She doesn’t believe that when he is with us his eye contact is normal, or he is cuddly and affectionate. Trust me. If I suspected he was autistic, I’d working hard to find him the services he needs! Maybe the problem is mine, I hear “autism” and think of the term as used when I was young–a crippling disorder guaranteeing 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 different, but not pathologically so. I pray this is not me living in some denial.

Since June, when I first heard “let’s rule out autism” from Liev’s pediatrician, I read voraciously. Liev 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 session turned into an autism inquisition. Too much time is spent quizzing me on his behavior and too little time is spent developing a relationship Liev. He is a person who deserves more than a halfhearted attempt! Yes, Liev has had an everlasting cold since August (due to preschool) and her only appointment time is in the late afternoon (his worst time of day). I think she’s overwhelming Liev with too many new toys and activities, and he reacts negatively to her amped-up enthusiasm.

I realize autism and Asperger’s are not doom diagnoses (I know 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. His intelligence is part of the problem. Liev is gifted and people might confuse this with autism since signs of autism spectrum disorders (good attention span, lining up toys, excellent memory, precocious learning skills, and delayed social development) parallel giftedness. A subgroup of analytically gifted children also experiences language delays. Our speech therapist acknowledges his giftedness but focuses on his patent ignoring of her and gives 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 conscientious and concerned about Liev, but there is a complication. She can’t reach him, and I want to blame her, not an illness I’m not convinced he has. Why must he be pathologized instead of seen as a child? In a week, I’ll be seeing Liev’s pediatrician. We’ll see then…

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