When my oldest child was born 17 years ago, it was obvious to me immediately that something was different about him. I had no idea at the time how all the dreams I had for him before his birth would change.
My pregnancy wasn’t all that abnormal. I had gestational diabetes and had excellent prenatal care. I was considered high risk because of the gestational diabetes. Otherwise, I had no problems. When I went into labor, everything was going fine, and then things changed quickly. I had an emergency c-section because I stopped dilating and the baby’s heart rate had slowed to a dangerous level.
For the first four years of his life, my son would scream often and his attention span was almost nonexistent. He had speech problems, and he was incredibly hyperactive. Going out to eat and going to church became almost impossible. Even going to the store to shop took at least two people, but more often four, just to help control my son so that I could shop and take him with me.
I had taken my son to regular doctors and he would be calm, leaving them to say there was nothing going on with him. By this time, I was convinced it was all in my head and that this was normal behavior for a child. I hadn’t been around a lot of babies or young kids, so I had little to compare his behavior to other than my original feeling that something was very different about him.
As a baby, he could not stand to be held. He would go stiff as a board and scream. Hugs were almost impossible. Trying to hold him resulted in screams most of the time. Getting him to go to sleep at night became a nightmare in itself.
Then came public school, and my second child. My son started Pre-K at the age of four, and it turned out to be a blessing. His teacher immediately picked up on his behaviors, and after seeing him around a room full of other children, his behavior stood out like a ship on the open ocean. She began to make daily notes of his behavior for me, of the screaming, the barking, the hitting himself, the need for his own personal space, the lack of social skills. Another parent told me of a good doctor and I made an appointment.
He was diagnosed with PDD or Pervasive Developmental Disorder, part of the autism spectrum. And he was diagnosed with ADHD, Tourette’s Syndrome, and Apraxia of Speech. He was put on Ritalin and his first pill was something that I can never forget. It was like the child looked like my child, but he was calm and wasn’t screaming. In a room full of other kids his age, he acted much like they did. He didn’t stand out anymore.
Later Risperdal was added for his mood swings, and that was later changed to Geodon because of the weight issues connected with the Risperdal. He still had learning difficulties and social issues, but his behavior was greatly improved.
Unfortunately for all the good the medicine did for his behavior, it did nothing for the autism. He couldn’t stand his clothes on him, and he was always pulling at them. Socks bothered him the most, where the seams on the toe area rubbed on his foot. He could be playing near a dozen kids, but he couldn’t play with them, only around them. He was still always in his own world. But he discovered that he loved hugs.
By the time my oldest turned twelve, I made the decision to pull him and his brother out of public school. They had kept him on the same grade level (2nd and 3rd grade) for going on five years, and I knew he could do better. We started homeschooling, and he caught up those five grade levels in one year. He could learn but he needed to be taught in a different manner. He still is behind what would be considered right for his age, but he has made great strides and has even acquired a love for reading.
When I was expecting my son, I had dreams of teaching him so much. I had dreams of him becoming anything that he wanted to be, of him marrying and having kids, all those things most parents dream of for their kids. After his diagnosis, those dreams became just that, dreams. Reality took over. As he has grown into a young man, he wants to learn to drive. I had thought of teaching him, but it seems that’s another thing that will be only a dream.
Now at 17, he has been off of meds for almost a year. His behavior gets a little out there at times, but he calms down quickly and even hopes to be able to get a job soon. That’s another bridge we will cross when we get to it.