This has been a journey and a half with my now seven year old son, Aj. First day he was born I could tell you something wasn’t right, he was more angry than happy. It appeared my son had inherited something that runs heavily in the gene pool; bipolar. So it began, a lot of testing and counseling to ensure we were parenting the way Aj would respond. Aj had test after test, all coming back that he was a normal child as far as brain goes and most of the developmental areas. Sure Aj was not speaking much by 15 months of age, but he ended up having glued up gunk on his left ear drum from too many ear infections as a child, tubes in ears were placed and voila, the child blossomed in speech. For every little milestone not met, there ended up being some medical reason. Nothing really waved a red flag other than the fact that Aj had a mood disorder going on. At first they wanted to say he was ADHD, but after ADHD medication gone bad, we realized that wasn’t the right diagnosis. After many years of counseling, parenting techniques taught to us and medication after medication for mood disorder as well as the one time try of Prozac for anxiety, it has now been brought into the light that maybe Aj is on the autism spectrum.
As we met with the counselor that has seen Aj from a young child to the current year, the observations I was making about Aj started to raise a light bulb with both the counselor and myself. I’ve been thinking the autism spectrum for a while with Aj but never did he have such strong symptoms of autism until this past month without medication. Aj hasn’t been on any medication since January 20th, 2014. In time I have noticed some things about Aj, that while some were there from the beginning, they are far more visible to everyone in his world now as time has gone on.
- As a baby; Aj needed to have juice, milk and water in specific cups. If those cups were not used he would have a meltdown. I recall, back when I was married to Aj’s Dad that we left a note for my ex SIL that Aj must have his milk in “x” color sippy, his water in “y” color sippy and his juice in “z” color sippy. If you messed that up, he would have a meltdown.
- Aj didn’t potty train until four years and 3 months of age; while I have no clue if this is part of autism signs or not, I can say it was abnormal as his younger brother and older sister trained by age 2.
- Time went on and Aj still thrived on a very routine driven lifestyle; even with medication Aj needed to know x,y and z would happen in that area every single day. Should an appointment be scheduled after school and we have to go to that appt instead of right home for homework, Aj would have/will have still to this day, a meltdown.
- Aj clearly is a rigid fellow too, with some anxiety which means he needs an almost unrealistic environment to live in; one in which everything happens the same exact way each day, down to his fried egg sandwich for breakfast each morning.
- I found myself saying, as of late, that Aj would do best in a world where everything is the same every single day, nothing changes, there are no appointments, no changes in routine, where everything happens in an x,y,z format. Everything each day needs to happen how Aj sees it to be his norm, or else there is an extreme meltdown of frustration.
As time has gone on, now over a month and a half of Aj without medication, I am seeing the need for him to have more than one blanket to fall asleep. The need for everything at bedtime to go as planned, so let’s say his five year old brother goes off kilter and starts being silly during bedtime book time, Aj cannot handle it and will get fixated on something. If Aj has anything happen to deter him from his path of normalcy he will get into a frustrated mindset where he can be found to quickly go thru the home and hit things, throw things and just have a total rageful fit. I have noticed, as of late, his quick frustrations or rageful fits are derived from something not happening in the way they normally do or in the way Aj has it in his mind they should happen.
Aj thrives on electronics, the counselor has advised us to take them away from his life as much as possible and since they are such an important part of his world, to use them more of an incentive based privilege versus a norm thing in his daily life. Using the electronics as a privilege has really helped to get Aj come back down to Earth at times during his frustrations. I have had to restrain Aj more often than not these past couple of weeks due to frustrations beyond his control. I have had to hear him spout off words like dumby, liar, stupid … all words he rarely ever used in the past. My heart breaks watching Aj fall apart because the more each day goes on, the more I see a child that looks a lot like Max in the series on prime-time TV called Parenthood.
While it doesn’t matter to me what label is placed on my son Aj, I just need something to figure out what’s going on. I already know how to parent Aj, he is a unique child who thrives on routine. I do everything in my power to ensure his day is full of things that take on a daily routine, and in the Summer I even create a poster board with times for everything so that the days go by much smoother. Even my oldest, and only daughter, stated that Aj did really well this past Summer when I started using a poster board schedule for the family.
We have some great times around here, Aj isn’t really as moody as I once thought him to be. In the past he had two moods; angry or sad. There really was not happiness. I imagined my son Aj a lot like my sister who has bipolar. Still to this day with some of the symptoms Aj shows, I can see a slight mood disorder as part of him, but overall I am hearing my inner mom gut scream Autism. I asked the counselor about this and he said that mood and anxiety can take a part in Autism. I had no clue. I am meeting with Aj’s pediatrician in a week or two as a means to get Aj in for an autism evaluation. I never knew they had such a thing, but this is our next step in the journey of raising Aj. For now, I know what he needs; routine, routine, routine and as much of a free spirit person I am – I have to learn to be more routine driven for the sake of my middle child’s growth.
We have previously questioned autism, so did Aj’s counselor but now the signs are far more than I can share in this one blog post, just know that I trust my instinct with my child and I also trust his counselor a lot!
If you have any resources for autism, such as a check list of symptoms or what not, that I can review to really get a grasp on things to share with the pediatrician for our appointment, that would be great. As this pediatrician hasn’t been so helpful in the past and I want so badly for her to hear me and help my son this time around!