I called my son’s general pediatrician to ask if she could refer us to a colleague with expertise in developmental-behavioral pediatrics.
Typically, general pediatricians have limited training in developmental disorders like learning disabilities, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorders (ASD). On the other hand, developmental pediatricians are highly trained and experienced in identifying a range of developmental and behavioral differences. They receive sub-specialty training and certification within the field of developmental-behavioral pediatrics after finishing a general pediatric residency.
Last year, our general pediatrician laid down our possible options to care for my son’s development.
We made it clear that we would tread ASD’s treatments carefully. My husband and I were adamant that we’d take the natural route to dealing with our son’s relatively high functioning autism. We only welcomed non-drug based interventions at this point. As of this writing, interventions have been limited to education-related approaches.
And it has been a liberating decision.
My son has improved his speech, comprehension and is a happy and active kindergartner without being dependent on any type of medication. And we are more-than committed to continuing the course.
“The doctor thought you were not open to this,” the Clinic Nurse was with me on the phone.
“Our son’s getting older, and we might need some help how to deal with behavioral and life challenges as he grows up. We realized we have to come to terms with reality. Our son has autism, and he sure needs a well-informed support group.”
Coming to terms with reality – being comfortable with our son’s developmental condition, embracing that autism is a part of who he is as a human being, celebrating his uniqueness and preparing for his journey – did not come instantly for my husband and I. It is a process at a slow to medium yet consistent pace.
At first, we’re hoping and praying his is just another case of speech delay.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), the prevalence of speech sound disorder among young children in the United States is around 8 to 9 percent. Around 5 percent have noticeable speech disorders when they enter first grade and majority of these speech disorders have no known cause.
When you are given an unwelcome verdict, you will hold on to the tiniest, grim flicker of hope available.
What if our son belongs to the 9 percent? What if he will come to terms with his development when he’s a first grader?
“Let us wait until he goes to school. And while we’re at it, let’s pray.” So, my husband and I agreed to wait and pray.
My great discovery during this period was that whether our son would be one in the 9 percent or one in the 68 children diagnosed with autism, it did not bother me anymore.
I had come to terms with his being, and I learned to laugh, celebrate and un-learn and re-learn with him.
My youngest is not as low-maintenance as my firstborn, but he has a lot of witty tricks under his sleeves, his expression of compassion and thoughtfulness is just so raw, I know it’s pure and genuine at its core, and his natural bent to curiosity and creativity is just astounding.
As his teacher said, “there are a lot going on in his head. You just need to know him for who he is and how he processes thoughts, feelings, and ideas. He is so sweet and he has a really bright mind.”
I still hope and pray that my son will be among those who were able to outgrow their diagnoses. While that has yet to be seen, I have decided to live for the moment: learn with him, laugh and giggle like him, read story books like Bill Cosby, animate thoughts like Blue, and answer math problems like Team Umizoomi.
After all, I have already come to terms with reality. And I find out that our reality is colorful and promising, laden with adjustments, but is also full of adventures and surprises. My family is ready for the ride!
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