Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Spectrum

Last summer when we were at Shelby's regular check-up with the neurologist, Dr. Poplawski suggested that we have Shelby evaluated by a developmental pediatrician for Autism. I thought this was ridiculous--Shelby did NOT have autism. The nerve of Dr. P! He spends about ten minutes with my daughter every 6 months, how dare he even bring this up! Dr. P told us that kids who have neurological issues are actually more likely to have Autism. I left the doctor's office angry--Shelby has plenty of behavior peculiarities, but I have always chalked them up to her cortical visual impairment, sensory issues, or the fact that her brain processes information differently because of the damage that was done to into when she had a humongous brain hemorrhage before she was born. Autism was never on my radar.

After much discussion, Trip and I made the developmental appointment. We figured that if nothing else, it was an opportunity to learn more about Shelby and to get some advice on potty training issues. Our appointment was the day before Thanksgiving. Dr. Sheppard's office was huge. One half of it was a play room and the other half of it contained a desk and chairs. I sat down across from Dr. Sheppard and Trip helped Shelby locate a familiar toy to play with before joining us. I quickly informed Dr. Sheppard that I did not want her to spend ten minutes with my daughter who is terrified of doctors (for good reason) and then diagnose her with Autism.

We were in Dr. Sheppard's office for two hours. Shelby played and we told the doctor about our daughter and answered multiple questions. At the end of the appointment, Dr. Sheppard was incredibly kind--and she told us that Shelby has Autism. She had been observing Shelby and interacting with her and taking in what we had said. She informed us that though some of Shelby's behaviors could be explained by her other disabilities, she still felt that Shelby was on the spectrum. She then gave us a ton of brochures about the many Autism resources in our community.

So where do we go from here? I've been around the block long enough to know that a diagnosis does not define my child and that Shelby is the same person today that she was before I found out she had Autism. I am also incredibly overwhelmed. I have a child with multiple disabilities--she sees a speech therapist, a physical therapist, a vision teacher, an exceptional-ed teacher and two occupational therapists every week. I do not spend enough time working with her as it is, and now we've got another diagnosis to consider. I feel like most of the things I read about Autism are not helpful for Shelby, in light of her other disabilities.

We have an appointment scheduled for next year with a doctor that specializes in Autism and I plan to bring this up with him. In the meantime, we're going to look at Shelby's IEP again and see if anything needs to be tweaked. We'll continue to do what we've always done--love her and do the best we can.