The Centers for Disease Control released a report today that indicated that 1 in 88 children are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 1 in 88. That is a staggering statistic. And it is probably a low number considering it was reached by surveying only those individuals that are receiving services. Kaitlyn, like a lot of high functioning autistics/aspies (at least I imagine this is the case), does not receive any specialized services and would not count toward that figure.
The new diagnosis figure represents a 78 percent increase in just five years. Some of this has to do with doctors having a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders, and also with improved testing and evaluation methods. I wonder what the figure would be if more doctors chose to not be lazy and settle for an ADD or ADHD diagnosis instead of further testing to determine possible ASD.
If you read these entries on a regular basis, you may have been wondering why I have been so persistent (click here or here or here) about World Autism Awareness Day (April 2) and Autism Awareness Month (April). That number is why. The more awareness that is out there, the better it is for people with ASD and the ones who care for them and love them. Awareness increases education, and education increases knowledge.
If you have not purchased your blue light bulbs for April 2, please go to Home Depot this weekend and do so. And I promise, you can use them for the whole month of April and all year if you want. Just think, you might get a chance to educate someone when they knock on your door to ask you about your blue light.
Looking back now, I can honestly say that I am happy that our psychologist diagnosed Kaitlyn with Asperger’s. While every day is an adventure, at least we can wake up each morning having some sense of what we are facing, and that makes a huge difference.
I have noticed a trend in talking with family, friends, and acquaintances with kids. More and more, they reveal to me that their child, or their niece or nephew, or the neighbor kid, have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD). And that just strikes me as odd.
Growing up, I remember not being able to sit still for too long (that continues today), and having trouble focusing on things that did not pique my interest. Kaitlyn is like that, too. I would bet that most kids are that way.
Which brings me to the ease (or perceived ease) of diagnosing a child with ADD. Your child cannot sit still? Must be ADD. Bounces from activity to activity? ADD. Doesn’t like doing homework? You guessed it, ADD.
My question is, are more kids being diagnosed with ADD because it is an easy label to put on a child? And a more accepted one than autism or Asperger’s? When teachers and school staff hear a child has ADD, I bet they don’t think twice about being a little more comfortable with regards to having an action plan in place. When they hear autism or Asperger’s, I imagine there is a collective cringing because each case is so unique. ADD can be somewhat controlled by medication; autism and Asperger’s generally cannot be.
It would have been easy for our psychologist to mistake Kaitlyn’s Asperger’s traits with ADD symptoms. But I am thankful that he dug deeper. I am thankful that he took the time to really figure out what was going on. I am thankful that he was not being lazy.
Asperger’s, like all autism spectrum disorders, is very complicated. Complicated and confusing. And it is my belief that asipes like Kaitlyn benefit most from a cohesive family unit.
Before you stop reading and comment that I am Captain Obvious, think about it for a minute.
Part of Kaitlyn’s Asperger’s is that she thrives on keeping a pretty set routine. She is used to me taking her to school and Amber picking her up. She is used to Thursdays being Miracle days, and Saturdays being reserved for gymnastics. She is also used to a consistent approach to disciplinary expectations; she knows that Amber and I are on the same page, working toward the same goal for her regarding manners, etc.
Which brings me back to my cohesive family unit point. It has to be better for her that we are on the same page and live in the same house. Think about how many children who are living in two houses because of a divorce (for more on my opinion regarding divorce, click here). And think about how living in two places usually goes: in one house, there is one set of rules or expectations, and in the other house, a completely different set of rules or expectations. So what you have is no consistency. And that cannot be good for an aspie or anybody on the spectrum.
Kaitlyn is fortunate in that respect. She knows that no matter what, Amber and I are on the same page. Either one of us can leave town for a weekend with friends or for a family emergency, and know that they are not being undermined in any way. When it comes to raising an aspie, it really does take two parents pulling in the same direction to achieve maximum success.