Autism: C'hele's Story

May 14, 2007

Autism: I’m Not A Bad Parent! I’m A Parent Of A Child With Asperger’s Syndrome ~ “The Beginning, Part III”

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 17:28

Two days before Michaela was to turn five (in July, 00) she was referred by her paediatrician (and autism specialist) to attend Sunny Hill Heath Centre for Children for a formal assessment with another paediatrician, psychologist, and a social worker. It was an incredibly busy month as we had finally moved on the first of that month into our new home. Michaela was originally referred for a behavioural and language assessment and possible developmental delays. Because she was a late talker she was able to say single words, phrases, and sentences but was unable to carry a conversation, she would become extremely frustrated finding the right words to express herself and often would smack her head with her hand if the word she sought did not come readily to her.

She was able to play solitarily and if she did play with other children they were almost always younger than herself. She was still having difficulty sharing with her peers and was still often aggressive towards them and to animals. At home I once found Caela with a telephone cord wrapped around the neck of our new kitten. She could be vindictive if things did not go her way (very non-compliant), and was having difficulties controlling anger and would often hit and throw things. Her anger problems would further extend to hitting me, when she had a complete melt-down. The only good thing about this was that she was able to feel remorse for what she had done. In the previous fall, Michaela was now attending the special education preschool five days a week. There, they worked very hard observing her in preparation for her Sunny Hill appointment. The special education preschool was very proactive with regards to routines and consistency within its programs.

Before Michaela was enrolled, I was invited to the school to observe the program and speak with the program’s director. I was incredibly pleased with the pleasant surroundings and the wonderful child-centred staff. The school literally radiated warmth, fun and a loving atmosphere. The programs director, Norma, was originally an elementary school teacher for years. She once told me that she went back to school to take the Early Childhood Education Program and the additional ECE Special Need’s training even though she didn’t have to. Norma wanted the children parents of the school to take her seriously. She certainly loved these children and I was very impressed with everything she told me. The children seemed to really enjoy everything that was going on around them, something I later came to better appreciate since autistic children do not like too much stimulation. It was here that Michaela first began speech and occupational therapy and had regular assistance from supported child care consultant. The occupational therapy was incredibly helpful as it was not uncommon for children with autism to be very clumsy, knock things over (she almost always spilled her juice “by accident” each morning), and trip over her own feet. Michaela was officially now a regular member of this school as a child with special needs for behavioural difficulties. Up to this point she had been making progress and was able to follow through with routines within a very structured program (the special ed. preschool).

Sunny Hill after their assessment came to the following diagnosis:

1. Michaela had uneven development with strength in non-verbal skills functioning within the average range.

2. Michaela had a language delay and disorder, functioning around the three year, three month level (she was almost five at the time of this test).

3. She was found to have a very strong willed and controlling personality.

4. Behavioural problems were secondary to difficult temperament, frustration, and emerging ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder).

5. Michaela’s verbal reasoning skills and adaptive behaviours are in the mildly mentally handicapped range.

6. Michaela is a child who is at severe risk of language based learning disabilities.

7. Confirmation of an approximate one to one and a half year delay overall in her understanding and use of some specific language skills.

8. That it was possible that Michaela was on the PDD/Autism Spectrum line.

The team at Sunny Hill then recommended that Michaela:

1. Be placed in a Kindergarten resource room that follows an I.E.P (Individual Education Plan), and offered additional support. (this means that Carla would be in a special education class full-time with some mainstreaming into a regular class).

2. Michaela would have continued language therapy.

3. Michaela was a visual learner and the usage of visual cues, symbols, and schedules would be helpful.

4. Encourage the parents to join the local Difficult Temperament Project for support (I did this but found it not very helpful. It did not address many of the concerns that I observed and have experienced. In my opinion, Caela did not display the normal characteristics of Oppositional Defiance Disorder. I soon was found to be right).

5. Michaela’s professional team encouraged me to continue counselling. I then joined a parent support group (for three years, once a week) at Michaela’s special education preschool with other parents who had children of various ages and disabilities. I also completed my ECE Education at the time and was soon to continue my education in the special needs realm.

6. That Michaela regularly visit a child psychologist (We have been doing this for 6 years now – and the visits have now decreased to once a year now).

7. That Michaela be reassessed by Grade four.

Continued on the previous blog entries on Autism.

C’hele

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