The diagnosis (originally written 3/22/07)

We took Nate on Wednesday for his appointment with the pediatric neurologist. She met with us and observed Nate for over an hour, all the while asking us questions about family history, Nate’s behavior, things he does or doesn’t do. A speech pathologist also observed and played with Nate, and I noticed her doing a lot of the same things the speech therapists are doing with him in therapy (getting eye contact, playing with bubbles and getting him to sign for more/interact, etc.). I was pleased with how thorough the doctors were and how they thought Nate was so cute. After her observations, the doctor left the room for a few minutes to put together the report, which she came back and shared with us. She explained a little bit about how the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) works and that Nate scored at 43.5

Nate’s score places him in the “moderately autistic range.” Jon and I were surprised at first by the word moderately — as opposed to mildly — but after reading through the written evaluation and thinking about the things Nate either always does or never does that fall within the descriptions of autism, we see why the diagnosis fell where it did.

Our overall reaction is that we are not generally surprised; we went into the appointment believing that Nate does have some degree of autism. We have felt that way for a while now (months), and so it wasn’t scary hearing it put into words by a doctor. I know I’ve already been doing some “grieving” over the fact that my little boy is going to have a harder time in some areas than other kids do.

A lot of people seem really hung up on “the A word.” Like they’re afraid to say it. What’s the big deal? It changes pretty much nothing. Nate is still the way he is, regardless of labels. He is still hilarious, cute, playful, energetic, rambunctious, smart, adorable, and fun to be around. And oh yeah, he has autism. But it doesn’t define him.

However, because so many people get caught up with the word autism and the image it conjures in their heads, Jon and I think we’ll err on the side of caution as far as telling people about Nate’s diagnosis. Of course all of our family and close friends will know. But the nursery workers at MOPS? They don’t need to know. The grocery store clerk who gives me a weird look because Nate never responds to her when she talks to him? She doesn’t need to know. (And that is a whole different post, by the way, because I know Nate’s behavior looks like rudeness to outsiders, when I know it isn’t — and I care too much about what other people think of my parenting skills.) Everyone who knows Nate already already loves him and sees and understand his quirks. Anyone we meet for the first time will love him too, and his autism won’t be something we bring up unless it’s appropriate.

We’re going to continue with the therapy Nate is getting through the state-run program, and now, with his diagnosis, we will probably also be able to add additional programs through our insurance. What’s nice about that is there is more to choose from location-wise through insurance, so most anything we did would be very close to home.

If you don’t know anything about autism, here is a quick paragraph I took from a website: “Autism is a developmental disability that typically involves delays and impairment in social skills, language, and behavior. Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning that it affects people differently. Some children may have speech, whereas others may have little or no speech…. Left untreated, many autistic children will not develop effective social skills and may not learn to talk or behave appropriately…. The good news is that there are a wide variety of treatment options which can be very helpful.”

So, that’s my disjointed post about the appointment. It was good, we’re good, and we’re moving forward.