Monday, November 15, 2010



I'm going to start this post with some events that happened a few years ago.  For close friends and family, you know this story already, but to the new guys, I had to back up to get to the heart of the post.  So bear with me if you've heard this before.

When Emma was almost 4, I took her to our primary care physician because I thought she may have had a speech delay.  I was having better conversations with Aubrie, who was almost 2 at the time, than I was with Emma.  Some of her words were very hard to understand, plus she had a small lisp with her S's, and sometimes she just spoke in gibberish.  Our PCM gave us a referral to a speech pathologist.  We went in for some testing with the speech pathologist, who asked me if I'd ever had Emma tested for autism.  I knew very little about autism at the time, so I told her no.  She told me she suspected that Emma may be what they call a high functioning autistic child.  If you don't know about autism, I'll try to explain it to the best of my knowledge.  It is a social disorder, that has some symptoms that are neurological.  It is a spectrum disorder, meaning it can range from incredibly severe to very mild.  The kids who are very mild are referred to as high functioning.  They may be socially awkward, and can have some learning disabilities, but they can be taught to live a normal, happy life on their own.  The more severe cases require round the clock care and supervision.  The speech pathologist referred us to a child psychiatrist. 

The first visit we had with him, which was just over an hour long, he definitively diagnosed her as autistic, but high functioning.  He immediately put in for her to be tested by the DOE in Hawaii, so that she could be in the special education preschool.  He also set up appointments with us to do a child study program.  In the child study program, they get together a group of children that are to be observed by a team of doctors.  They bring in a child psychiatrist, and a child psychologist, a speech pathologist, a pediatrician and a few others that I can't remember off the top of my head.  They basically see how the kids interact with each other, and how they respond to various taskings and interactions with the doctors.  It's a series of 3, one hour long sessions.  We made it to 2, but missed the 3rd one because Emma was sick.  In between the first session, we had our second appointment with the psychiatrist, I had mentioned to him some aggressive behavior I'd noticed in Emma.  I wasn't sure if the behavior was autism related, or just her being a normal 4 year old, who was truly the middle child, just expressing her frustration.  He told me that it was definitely the autism, and he wanted to medicate her.  I sort of freaked out when he took her to have an EEG done, so that he could prescribe the medication.  I went home and did some research on the medication.  It is used in the treatment of the manic phases of bipolar disorder, the treatment of schizophrenia, and to treat severe behavior problems in autistic children.  I went back to him and told him I was NOT giving her this medication.  He insisted, and I told him that I wasn't convinced she was even autistic, but even if she was, I was not putting my almost 4 year old on a drug like that unless absolutely necessary and we were NOT at that point yet.  He agreed to reviewing the matter later.  

The first round of school testing began, and they did several things.  I can't remember everything they did, but the speech pathologist from the school district pulled me aside after her testing and asked me what exactly we were testing Emma for.  I told her she'd been diagnosed autistic, and the doctor wanted her in preschool.  The speech pathologist looked at me like I had 4 heads!  She told me that she was very surprised that they were testing Emma for autism, because she showed no signs of it in her session.  In my gut, I knew this diagnosis was a quick one.  Autism is a spectrum in the WORLD do you come to that conclusion after ONE visit?  After all the testing in the school district was finished, the testers sat down with me and gave me their decision - they were not recommending Emma for special ed preschool.  And I was advised (off the record) to get a second opinion on her autism diagnosis.  

The second doctor we saw was another primary care physician.  He assured me that just from what he saw in his office that he wouldn't even recommend her for another consult.  From the way she was behaving and interacting with him in his office, he would say he was reasonably sure that she was not autistic, but that she did have some learning delays.  At this point we were getting ready to PCS to Washington, so I put everything on hold until we moved here.

Since we live off post here, we were allowed to be seen off post.  I made an appointment at our pediatric clinic, and met with an RN whose specialty is child behavior.  I brought Emma in, and again, she could see no neurological or other reason why Emma would be considered autistic.  She said she would put in a recommendation to a child psychiatrist if I wished, but she felt that just from that one visit that she was too far along in so many areas (socially, neurologically, behaviorally) to be considered autistic.  When I came home that day, I sat down with Chip and we agreed that we would just wait until Emma started school.  If there really was an issue, that's the place it would rear it's head.

When she started kindergarten back in September, I waited.  I was waiting for a call from the teacher, SOMETHING to indicate we might have issues.  But no call came.  On Wednesday, we had our first parent/teacher conference.  She showed me all of Emma's work, showed me her progress, and asked if I had any questions.  So I asked, "Do you see anything that makes you think Emma could be autistic?"  Her response?  Well after she stopped laughing, she asked if I was serious, and I said yes.  I briefly explained what we had been told and she shook her head.  No way.  In her 23 years of teaching kindergarten, she had some experience in this area, and she was just shocked that Emma was ever considered autistic.  She told me she would call in the counselor during class one day, and ask her to observe Emma, but she would only do that if I really wanted it because she saw no indications at all that Emma was autistic.  

So then, what was it?  I think I can pinpoint a few things that brought everything on.  First, Chip deployed that year.  I did NOT handle that deployment well.  Which I'm sure my kids picked up on.  Second, I was pregnant with another baby.  When Camden was born, Emma became THE middle child.  She has two older siblings and two younger siblings.  Third, she was almost 4.  Not quite a big kid, but not a toddler anymore either.  I think just this combination is hard enough for an adult to deal with, so imagine having to do it as a child.  She DID have some learning delays.  Which is probably what caused a lot of her frustration.  Imagine being the middle child and not being able to communicate effectively.  Emma does have some quirks, she can be a little odd and very in your face.  But that is more personality than autism.  

I think back on when the first doctor wanted to medicate her.  I am so glad that I stuck to my guns and refused.  I'm not against medicating my children IF they need it.  But I just felt that she didn't need it.  More than that, I felt like the doctor was treating her based on what he'd done with every other child he'd worked with, and NOT treating her based on what was best for HER.  

So for now, I'm fairly confident that she is not autistic.  Her teacher is aware of this concern, so if anything comes up, she will inform me and I guess we'll go from there.  This has been such a long an frustrating journey.  Autism is hard to diagnose, but to be wrongly diagnosed I think is even worse.  I want what is best for her, and I guess as a parent you just always want clear answers and treatment, and that is not always the case.  

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rambling Fool

Since I haven't blogged in a week or so (more maybe?) this blog is likely to just be a jumble of babbling.  Sorry about that.  I have many, many thoughts swirling around my head, and I'm extremely tired.  Fair warning.

So let's talk about me being tired.  I can't sleep.  I just lay in bed with a million thoughts going around and around.  Plus I have this fantastic head cold.  Which leads to that little tickle you get in the middle of your throat, and then the coughing.  Oh the coughing!  It's not actually doing anything except perhaps scratching your throat because you don't have anything to cough up.  I toss and turn, thinking and coughing.  It's a vicious cycle.  And it keeps me up all night long.  I usually fall asleep right as my kids decided it's time to wake up.  That usually happens around 5ish.  I'm pretty sure my kids hate me.

We went to church last Sunday, and as we were about to head out the door to go home, one of the guys from our Sunday school class flagged me down and invited me to lunch with his family and two other families.  For those of you who are not Nazarene, you won't understand how we can't go a single Sunday without worship, food, and a good ol' Nazarene nap.  We had a great time getting to know a few of the families. One of the couples is from Ohio, and I sense a kinship with Jodi, that only midwest girls can share.  Hopefully she felt it, too.  Wow that sounded stalkerish.  I'm just so excited about this church.  Yesterday we had a potluck at church (see - FOOD) and again got to meet and chat with some other families.  I just feel like this is where we need to be.  

Last night I went to choir practice, and I'm pretty sure that this is one of the things I've been missing big time in my life.  There are probably a good many of you who do not know that I love to sing.  L-O-V-E to sing.  When I was in high school, I was in two performing choirs and I loved every minute of it.  I don't think I have the voice to be a soloist, but I can sing in a group with the best of them.  I haven't sang regularly for a purpose in a really, really long time.  I miss it.  When I was in Hawaii, I even looked for like a community adult choir, but never really found anything that looked appealing.  Sure, I sing in the shower, in the car, while I'm cleaning, or anywhere else I feel I can get away with it without looking like a fool.  But now I can do it with a purpose.  It amazed me how much I retained from high school choir.  We used to practice, sitting up straight, both feet on the floor.  I wasn't familiar with all of the music, but I was still able to catch on, and rather quickly.  This is totally my niche in life.  And the choir opened me with open arms.  Which is huge.  Most church choirs, this late into the year, are preparing for the Christmas program.  There's only a few short weeks until their program is supposed to go on, so it would probably be frowned upon to have new members start this early.  But these guys just said, the more the merrier!  Here's a book, here's the CD to learn it, Welcome!  It makes me feel even more like we were led here for a reason.  We were just going to visit!  I had no intentions of finding a church home.  I didn't even think we were looking for a church home.  But we found one.  

As exciting as that is, I have to admit that I'm a little apprehensive.  I haven't been a member of a church in a really long time.  Last time I was, I was a kid.  It feels different as an adult.  I can't explain why, it just does.  Maybe because, as a kid, we were pretty much told what to believe.  Now as an adult, after life and experiences, I have my own set of beliefs.  I was talking to a friend of mine about how I was afraid to go back because a lot of what I believe doesn't necessarily match up with the church's beliefs.  I mean, can you go to church and still be pro-choice?  Can you go if you believe in same-sex marriage?  It occurs to me I'm afraid of judgement.  I have seen the judgmental christians, and they are vicious and harsh.  I can't stand that.  (Is THAT a judgment?)  But I decided that I would go.  If I am judged, that's not on me.  I am not there to please other people, I'm there for the kind of relationship I want with God, and if I go with an open heart and mind, then I will learn whatever it is I need to learn.  

More random thoughts include......

Chip is leaving for Virginia in January.  It's only for 2 months.  And it's NOT a deployment.  But I'm still dreading it.  My kids lately have been driving me crazy.  There are days when I count down the hours until he gets home so I can have 5 minutes of peace.  I know I'll be fine, and the kids will be fine.  I just don't like it.  I know he has to do it, and when he does, it means so much for his career.  His first look for E7 is next March (2012).  But what he really wants to do, is go warrant.  For my non-military friends, he wants to be a warrant officer.  Warrant officers are the ranks between enlisted and officers.  E1-E9 are enlisted ranks, so he'd be above that, but since he doesn't have a degree, he'd be under the rank of officers.  It's a little more pay, a LOT more respect, and it will be great for us when he retires.  

Do you guys know that he retires from the army in just 7 years?  That seems crazy to me!  We're already trying to plan it!  We're looking at probably going to the Columbia, SC area.  Most of Chip's family is in the Carolinas, not to mention some of mine, and then it's only about a day's drive to Indiana, where most of my family is.  We also have close friends in NC, so it will be perfect.  We figured we'd try to get near Columbia, since all of the kids will still be in the house.  We'd still be able to go to the commissary and PX.  Plus it's about smack in the middle between his family in Charleston, and our families in Anderson/Fletcher.  We've been looking at houses, and are so happy that in what we think would be our price range that we have a lot of options.  I think I want an older house that's been mostly updated, with a large yard and lots of trees.  They have a lot of newer houses but the lots are smaller and the developments have few trees that look like they were planted when they built the houses.  I love big old trees, and the shade they provide.  Plus I love the look of the old brick houses.  I wouldn't mind doing a little work (painting and such) but I don't want anything that we'll have to completely overhaul.  Kitchens will be a deal breaker.  We've had some pretty crappy army housing kitchens, and while I know you can sometimes change the floor plan, it's just not something I think we'll want to undertake when we first get out.  Painting the kitchen, maybe even replacing cabinets or counter tops, or appliances, those might be doable.  But to completely gut any part of the house is not going to do it for me.  I guess that's one of the advantages of being in so many houses - we pretty much know what we want and what we don't.  

I guess that's enough for today.  If you've made it this far, give yourself a cookie.