Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The Autism Question

First I have to say that taking three kids under the age of four to Walmart to get their photos taken is COMPLETE AND UTTER MADNESS.

Never again.
Or not for a really freakin' long time.

On to the topic at hand. I know that there will be parents out there interested in this because, sadly, autism seems to be cropping up far more than we are all comfortable with. There's apparently a boom of autistic kids in the Silicon valley right now and specialists from all over are flocking to CA to study this and figure it out. Seems there's a connection between introverts marrying and having kids---and autism.

So glad I'm not an introvert.

And yet still, the suspicion about Jairus being autistic arose. It started when he was willy widdow and would line stuff up. He didn't play with cars and trucks: he would put them in traffic jams. Nice, long, perfectly straight traffic jams.
Over the years, a few people familiar with autism would ask us if he was and we would always say no. His pediatrician insisted he was not. Still, he showed characteristics very much like autism.
Back in the spring, I was emailing extensively with a mum from NJ. Her son has autism. She sent me a list of about 40 questions pertaining to autism that I was to consider in light of Jairus and answer honestly--if I could. Of those 40 questions, my answers indicated that at least 10 of them pointed Jairus towards autism. Some of those questions/answers talked about:
~lack of imaginative play
~lining up toys
~poor eye contact
~lack of response when called
~lack of imitation
~insistence on keeping everything the same
~inability to engage other children in play-poor social interaction
~hyper or hypo-sensitivity to pain
~reflux as an infant
~apraxia (non-verbal)

So I spoke to his therapists. They agreed that looking into this was prudent. There was another pediatrician in town who did testing for autism and so we went off to see him. He had me fill in a document called CARS:Childhood autism rating scale. A score of 30 or higher would indicate autism. Jairus scored about 28.

Unfortunately, even with a scale, diagnosing autism isn't so cut and dried. While he doesn't talk--a BIG marker for autism, he's always been very social--smiling and hamming it up since he was a wee babe. His lack of normal social interaction now is very likely due to the fact that he can't talk and 4-5 year old kids now notice that and keep their distance. He also does not 'stim' --engage in repetitive behaviors to stimulate himself, like spinning things or dropping toys on purpose just to watch them fall, over and over. But he doesn't play with toys properly or he plays with weird things--like the movie cases. He insists on having stacks of movies around him when he's watching a movie. Usually he has to have the case of the one currently playing securely in his grasp. Sometimes he'll line them up like his own personal yellow brick road.

So no real decision has been made. His pediatrician wanted to wait on it a few months and revisit. We saw him again just a couple weeks ago, and it does seem that he's investigating in other directions. That's good, I suppose. But something is up with Jairus. We may never know exactly, but for now, we keep on looking.

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