Are You Suggesting My Son Has Autism?

My son. My funny, sweet, loving, hyperactive son was having a hard time in Pre-K 4. He was 4 years old and struggling. He had delayed speech. He couldn’t focus nor sit still. I had spoken with his principal and teachers before he started Pre-k 3 to discuss his issues we saw. I also had a conversation at the beginning of the school year for Pre-K 4 telling his new teacher all the issues we saw BUT I made it a point to tell her anything she noticed with him to please communicate with me (Remember that part later in the story). Every week I would ask on how he was doing and was told everything was going well. We were using my daughter as a form of reference since she was diagnosed with ADHD.

Watching him as he was hitting certain milestones and missing others, my mind began to race about what this all could mean. So, we decided, my husband and I, we would be more proactive and not miss the opportunity to help him. The guilt still bothers me because I didn’t act fast enough for our daughter. So, for my son, I was not going to make the same mistake.

As I said before, we met with his principal and teachers before he started pre-k 3. We then got him into speech therapy and then occupational therapy. He started making improvements or so we thought and then fast forward to Pre-K 4 we were given the news he was not adjusting nor acclimating well to the class.

Ok I know. He is only 4 years old. It is Pre-K. It is not like he is preparing for Harvard. And let’s talk truth here. When we were in school, Kindergarten was coloring, learning their letters, learning how to count and writing. Now I come to find when my children started school, the curriculum changed. Pre-Kindergarten is where those specific things are taught. By Kindergarten, your child whether in private, public, charter or home school needs to be able to write sentences, know the alphabet, count to 100, spell and recognize sight words, etc.

This was supposed to be a meeting with parents to discuss their child’s report card. However, my husband and I were expecting to meet with just his teacher, but the principal decided to join us. You know that feeling you get when you know the meeting between parent and teacher is about to take a rough turn.

I hear things mentioned of my son running around the classroom, crying, not finishing his work, not at the level of reading, writing, or math as where children need to be at his age. I. was. shocked. Why didn’t anyone say anything? Why didn’t the teacher tell me all the times I asked how he was doing?

Then the conversation turns to moving him to their other school for children with learning disabilities or differences as they call it. The same school my daughter attends. And I am just there with my mouth open and tears rolling down my face.

My husband thinks they are overreacting. I feel like there is a bit of an exaggeration, but I also know my son has his issues. I know he is not where he needs to be. I wasn’t angry at them but disappointed they had me thinking he was doing better than he was. I felt like someone pulled the rug out from underneath me.

Yes, I had alerted them to what I was seeing, but I also didn’t think it was this bad. Then the conversation takes another turn to where I’m told “you should really have him tested to see where he is on the spectrum.”

“Wait! What?” Spectrum….as in autistic? So, my mind begins to race even more, and the fear rises. Is my son autistic and I missed this too? He never missed a pediatrician appointment. I also mentioned to my doctor what I saw. How could this be? What in the world is going on with my mothering instincts? They suck…. I suck. Or so I thought.

The next day I kept him home from school and took him straight to the pediatrician. I explained everything we discussed at the school. My pediatrician says there is no way a 4-year-old would not be hyper. However, we did need to find out what was going on. So, she sends me to the University of Miami Mailmen Center. Two weeks later, we met with the pediatric specialist for Neurology. My husband and I sat for three-hours answering questions while she watched my son for that entire appointment and examined him.

She looks at my son and says, “Your son is not autistic. However, he has Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder combined type. This means his inattentive side and hyperactivity is at the same level along with developmental delays. So, it was not autism, but he had a big diagnosis in my eyes. In fact, he was worse than my daughter’s diagnosis.

He is more alert about his surroundings and pays more attention to conversations. He is much more social and fearless than my daughter. And he has an unusual gift in music. He just has more difficulties learning. So, thankfully we have him in the school that helped my daughter so much.

It will be a longer road for him academically than my daughter’s. But I have faith he will be just fine. Don’t get me wrong there are far worse things in the world. Especially now that we are all in the thick of the pandemic.

One thing I have learned in this whole process of having two children with learning differences and needs is to keep a level head. Gather your information and take some time to weight the information you are being given from your schools about your child.

This blog is not to make teachers or schools to be the enemy. Contrary it is through them I was given answers I needed to better help my children. But we have a responsibility as parents to weed out all the unnecessary opinions and go on about with facts.

If you are unsure what is happening with your child, and you see them struggling with speech, certain milestones, focus, behavior and academically. Then you can do the following things. Take your child to a pediatric neurologist. Have them make sure there is nothing clinical going on with your child. Once you have that done then take your child to a psychologist where they can give your child what is called a psychological evaluation.

This evaluation will check everything through a series of questions and exercises to see what areas your child needs help. It will not disappoint. Also make sure to check with your health insurance to see what your coverage is for therapies such as speech, occupational and behavioral.

Most of all, remember there is no shame in this. You are not alone and there are many parents dealing with this same problem. If I can help at least one parent in this journey, then I would be so happy.

Remember, trust your gut and don’t drive yourself crazy second guessing yourself.

Take care and be safe! Blog with you again soon.

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