Early Intervention

You know, I was thinking about Kaeden and his autism and the very beginning of my life with him after reading a post by Tanya at Teen Autism (www.teenautism.com) about surveying parents of autistic kids. It really made me think...and wonder.

I had no clues about Kaeden's autism until he was about 3. It was then that I started noticing little differences that clued me into something being not quite right. Of course, now that I know he is autistic and I know the signs of autism, there were clues prior to age 3. Things I mistakenly thought were him 'being a boy' or 'all kids are different' or 'he just has a lot of energy'. However, this being said, I don't know that I would have wanted it any other way.

They talk about early detection and early intervention. And though I agree that it helps to recognize that something is wrong, I feel that early detection and early intervention may be a mistake. There, I said it. I disagree with catching autism too soon. Because once it is discovered and detected and intervened, life can no longer just be life. The kid can no longer be a kid, the parents can no longer just be parents. The kid is the kid with autism and the parents are the parents of the kid with autism. And once we have those labels, there is no turning back.

You can argue with me that we sense something all along, or that the child will never be able to be a 'normal'kid, or that the behaviors of the child already have us stressed as parents. And while those are all valid points and real, it is still my belief that kids with autism such as my son (not classic, but higher functioning) benefit from being allowed to be a kid.

When Kaeden was a baby and toddler, he led a life that every other neuro-typical kid lived. He went to daycare, he went to the playground, he took baths with water and bubbles, he got his shots and well child checks, and he made lots of messes. He watched Barney over and over again, he fingerpainted and played hide and seek. He didn't take an array of vitamins or bathe in epsom salts. He wasn't scheduled with so many therapists there wasn't a moment's break in the day. He didn't have PECS to schedule his life. He was just a kid.

I understand why parents take all these steps early in their child's life. I really do understand. We want to do everything we can to help our child be the most successful he can be. But in that quest to help them, I think we sometimes forget that first and foremost our kid is just a kid. All that autism hubbub and everything that comes with it is secondary. It's not less important, but it does distract from the fact that we have this kid...this living breathing little piece of ourselves who wants to play and eat and whines to get what they want.

When Kaeden used to scream when I vacuumed, I didn't understand why. I just vacuumed when he wasn't around. I now know he had sensitivity to sound. The result was the same, whether I knew he had autism or I didn't. We have instincts as parents. We know how to help our kids (to a certain degree). We know when they aren't happy, or when they are aggitated. And then we do what we can do about it.

Kaeden didn't have any autism-related intervention until he was 6 years old. Kaeden is not free of his autism, he is not cured, and he has many signs and symptoms of being autistic at the age of 15. He has outbursts and fixations and sensory overloads. He also thrives on music and sound, obssesses about money, and uses a strict schema for accomplishing tasks. But he is still autistic, just as he was when he was 3 and I first had doubts about issues.

I am glad we didn't have early intervention programs, as it would never have allowed us to have the enjoyment of each other we had without autism lurking in the background. I know many people will disagree, but in my heart of hearts, I stand true to the opinion. I am glad my kid was able to be just a kid, and I was able to just be that kids mom!

1 comment:

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

I know what you mean, Tera. Looking back, Nigel easily could have been diagnosed at 18 months, as many toddlers are these days, but I am glad that, circumstances being what they were, it happened when it did (at age 3). I think that toddlers are often misdiagnosed, but I am also glad that Nigel started receiving therapy when he did. Anyway, it's good that we are satisfied with the timing of our sons' diagnosis regardless of when it occurred. I completely understand what you are saying with this post. And now, our sons have grown into such beautiful, remarkable young men. Of course they (and we) face challenges as they enter adulthood, but I am so glad to know you and share in the experiences. *hugs*