Sunday, November 7, 2010

De Nial

There is a saying that I like. If you have met one child with autism, you have met one child with autism. Rim shot. The point being that knowing one child with autism doesn’t tell you anything about the strengths as well as the weaknesses of other children with autism. That’s particulary true with my two guys. They’re twins, nearly five years old. We were worried about Secondo, pretty much from when he was two years old. Asked about him at the two year check-up, decided to pay for an evaluation and moved forward through several years of evaluations and special ed. He’s done great with his classes and is now in full time preschool and doing well.

His twin brother Primo was another matter. We had a sitter/nanny (long story there) for the boys during the time when we were having Secondo diagnosed and learning the joys of IEPs and such. Since Secondo was going to preschool, we thought that it would be unfair to have Primo at home without a playmate. Notwithstanding that they pretty much ignored each other at this point. So, we enrolled Primo in the neighborhood preschool. To put it bluntly, he was freaked out. He was the oldest child in his class and totally unable to handle it.

That was diffciult for us. Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt. It didn’t help that Primo’s teacher wasn’t exactly the warm and fuzzy type. My first reaction was that this is new for him and so give him a break. Yeah, I was blissfully kayaking down de Nial. We were reasonably proactive and had an evaluation thorugh Child Find. Primo was eventually ruled eligible for services and wound up in a great program the next year. A mixed class of 6 developmentally delayed kids and 6 neurotypicals. It’s good news all around. The DD kids get to spend lots of time with peer models and the NTs are in a program with a low teacher/pupil ratio.

I’ll be frank that we were NOT ready for a second diagnosis of autism. Learning the Secondo has autism was tough. We weren’t surprised by the time that the formal diagnosis came. Still, it felt like God had just dumped a ton of lead bricks on top of the shoulder of a little boy whom I loved. A second time would have been taking the piss.

Well… I guess the piss was taken. We finally moved forward with a diagnosis for Primo. This might seem terribly lazy given that we had known he had delays for more than a year. Truth is that Primo was getting the same services as Secondo—he was in a great program for special needs kids and Secondo’s psychiatrist acted as a family therapist anyway. So, it didn’t seem like it would make much of a difference and we were happy not to deal with another diagnosis.

Ultimately, we chose to go forward as knowing more about our little guy couldn’t be a bad thing and knowledge is power. Particularly when it comes to school districts with budgets. Hate to say it, but I’m going to do what I have to do for my son. Tough in this environment.

Secondo’s evaluation was very different from Primo’s. This one was more like 20 questions. Secondo’s psychiatrist had gotten to know Primo, so it was pretty easy. We weren’t surprised at the preliminary diagnosis and it’ll be good overall. Instead of meeting once a month, we’ll plan on three meetings every two months (once for each separately and one joint meeting).

The funny thing is that Primo’s diagnosis should have been easy for me. A good friend of mine has a kid on the spectrum who is about 5 years older than my kids. His son J is a lot like Primo. Both very early readers. Both intensely bright. In certain ways.

Now I know that I have two sons with autism. It’s not an easy thing to handle. I also realize just how different they are. They have a lot of strengths and, well, some weaknesses. I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry, but then what parent doesn’t? They’ll do well.

At least I hope they will.

I pray they will.

They light up my life.