January 25, 2009

Early Diagnosis

Reading parent blogs, I have been taken aback by how frequently mothers worry that their preschool boy is autistic. I don't want to offend any of you great parents, trying to do what is best for your child. . In all my years around young children(5 brothers, 45 younger cousins, 4 daughters) none were tested for autism as a preschooler. Has autism increased so dramatically or is there now so little tolerance for divergent thinking and unconventional minds? I am desperately uncomfortable wit psychiatric diagnoses for preschoolers. And some of the softer austic symptoms bother me.

I must say I always wondered why I was different, and being told I was a manic depressive at age 7 when my mom worried about my worrying would have been nightmarish. My dad just told me I was smarter than other people and read much more, and I could live with that:) I wouldn't have dared to have my wonderful children if I knew I was mentally ill. Thank God I was diagnosed until the youngest was 4.

If being a scientist happily working all hours in a lab is being a loner, so what? My brother met his wife in the lab, and they are happy loners together. I can't imagine anything on earth could have made Andrew less like my dad, and why would anyone want to try. Another brother who is an elementary school teacher is very dubious about special ed for kids within normal limits. He thinks the stigma is far worse than the extra services justify.What has changed so dramatically that your son is suspected of being autistic now when he wouldn't have been ten years ago? Are there really effective treatments?

People who weren't diagnosed who wish they had been haven't been exposed to the stigma and discrimination and mistreatment that accompany diagnoses. They probably exaggerate the wonderfulness of the special services they didn't receive. We are not an enlightened society; stigma is very real. I would have never gone to social work school at age 46 if I had realized that mental health professionals obviously don't believe in the efficacy of their own treatments.

Loners and losers outgrow it, invent software, have TV shows made about them:) Nerds and geeks are the new prince charmings; they make great husbands. Diagnoses are forever.I wonder if they make chemistry sets for kids Bub's age. I suspect they make microscopes. I recall a kid in Katherine's traditional kindergarten class. The teacher insisted he be tested for developmental disability. He tested at genius level.

With my kids, the educational accommodations they need were not to be insufficiently challenged. The gifted prgram was good in that respect, but their regular public school was totally inadequate. I let my scientist stay home from school so much because she was obviously learning at a higer level than she could reach at school. Special ed kids are not usually recognized as gifted, which Bub so obviously is.

As I told you in my email, I always thought I could do something.. I admit my dad's legacy was intellectual arrogance. I always figured that I could read the same books and journals as the experts, and I knew my weird kids better. Certainly that approach was the key to taming my bipolar order ten years ago. I researched psychiatric journals and the net to find the best possible medication and shopped for a psychiatrist who was willing to prescribe it. My psychiatrist has frequently expressed his gratitude for my educating him. That medication, lamictal, is the one he uses most successfully for his bipolar patients. I needed a psychiatrist who was a partner, who would discuss journal articles with me as a peer, who was as willing to learn from me as I was from him, who would admit when he didn't know and when he was wrong. Only then would I feel comfortable enough to be fully honest with him about my medication.

Using what you learn from blogs, books, and journals about autism is brilliant. I am sure they would have helped me cope with my dad, two brothers, two husbands, and two nephews:) I am very curious to read them; I love to think about how different minds work. Learning all you can is different than a formal diagnosis that might convey to a child, his teachers, his peers that there is something wrong with him even though different, original minds can't and shouldn't be fixed. _

_Do read For Her Own Good: 200 Years of Experts Advice to Women, by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English. Thank God I first read it when it only covered 150 years in 1979, the year after my writer was born. Thank God I never consulted experts about her. Some minds are too mysterious to be meddled with. She probably would have qualified for bipolar disorder, autism, and social anxiety disorder, with a subtle oppositional defiant disorder. __The label "autistic" might be less frightening to your generation, but in 62 years I have never personally known a child so labeled. I have known many children who could have been so labeled, but they found their ideal career niche and the spouse who can translate for them. The more I read about it, the more I suspect it explains so much about men:)__Bub is lucky to have the best mother in the world for him. I would hate to see any specialist shake your confidence in that. I apologize for being so strident and tiresome , and I will shut up and save this for private emal and my blogl. Yesterday I wrote a post on "Experts," Testing, and Misdiagnosis. I might be overly influenced by my experience that being open about my bipolar disorder wasted all the money I spent on my MSW in social work.

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