As I sit down to try and organize my thoughts I am finding that they are jumbled so I apologize upfront if this post doesn’t make much sense.
Several years ago when Gabriel was just a little tike we were having some issues with him at his daycare. We were called in one evening to discuss Gabriel’s behavior. Apparently they were having problems with him being out of control, throwing tantrums etc. We were, I think at the time, completely unaware that his behavior was causing such concern. We knew that he was more of a “high-maintenance” child, but I remember leaving that meeting that night after the Director spent an hour describing my son, and felt we must have raised a monster. It was implied at that first meeting that Gabriel’s issues we a result of bad parenting, that Gabriel was just a “naughty” boy. (As a side note – thankfully that Director is no longer taking care of our children and we currently have a WONDERFUL Director whom Gabriel adores!)
They suggested that we have Gabriel go through some preschool screening to see if they would find anything. So that spring we signed him up and after a couple of rounds of testing, the group came back to us saying that they believed that Gabriel might fall somewhere on the Autism spectrum.
The feelings I had after that meeting ranged from sadness to disbelief. My picture of Autism at that time was of Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal in the movie “Rainman”. I was sure that Gabriel was doomed to a life of solitude and misunderstanding – and as a mother this was very difficult for me because I don’t want to see my kids struggle.
Because of that initial evaluation Gabriel qualified for some extra services through the preschool and we enrolled him to start that fall. In the two years since he started preschool he has made AMAZING strides. He is able to transition from one thing to another easier, he has become willing to try new foods – although toast/bread will probably always be a struggle! The tantrums have diminished significantly and he can deal with change a lot better. We are so very grateful for all of the work that his preschool teachers have done with him.
Gabriel will be 6 in October and will start Kindergarten. Because of how the law is written we were required to have Gabriel officially “tested” prior to age 6, to see if he is still eligible for support as he enters this new phase of school. So a few months ago we got the ball rolling working with a team of individuals who do the testing for Autism/Autism Spectrum Disorders. As parents we had to fill out lots of different assessments and then this team went to do specific testing with Gabriel.
Today we met as a group to discuss the results of everything that had been done and to determine what is the next step in creating an educational plan that best fits Gabriel’s needs.
The team found that he did not have enough of the triggers to meet the criteria for the educational diagnosis of Autism, however he does meet the criteria for Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified (PDD-NOS).
Pervasive Developmental Disorder – they sound like such harsh words to me. And although the “label” as it is will allow us to receive supports for Gabriel that will benefit his educational career, I can’t help but worry about what the future will hold for our little man.
Some of the things that the team observed and commented on caused me to feel a little sad as a mom. “Gabriel appears to play well with others but does not seem to have a best friend.” “Gabriel will get agitated when the other child didn’t play the Memory game according to the rules.” “Gabriel will correct others at the table if they are not following the rules.” “Once outside at recess he walked around the playground, not joining in any of the play activities.” “Gabriel prefers to play alone. When he does play he is still at a parallel play level rather than interacting with his peers.” “Gabriel does not have a conversation with others, but rather gives comments and recites facts and it is never initiated.”
I am trying to figure out if I am more sad for him or sad for me. I am the type of person that likes to develop close personal relationships with my family and friends. I try to become invested in their lives, remembering details they tell me and then asking about those things later. And so I think this kind of relationship development is important. When I see that is an area where Gabriel struggles – then I feel sad. I need to put myself in his shoes though. It is possible that he is quite content in his environment. Maybe he doesn’t need to play “with” friends, maybe just playing “parallel” to them is fulfilling enough for him. At this point I really can’t know for sure, but I have to trust that is the case.
In any case, the good news is that this diagnosis means that Gabriel will qualify to receive supports as he heads off to elementary school. We have a great team of people that are working FOR Gabriel to make sure that his time in school is most beneficial to him. Gabriel’s preschool teacher Shelley even suggested that she take him over to the kindergarten classroom next week to introduce him to the teacher and let him see what he can expect for next year.
This team has come up with many great ideas that I know will only aid to his success. So for today I must be content in the gratitude I have for those people and trust that God will be walking with us in this journey. Gabriel’s road may not be the one that I would have chosen for him…one of least struggle, least difficulty. But I believe in a God that has something even bigger planned for Gabriel, something more than my mind can comprehend. A God that loves Gabriel more than I as his parent loves him and I know that He has given Gabriel to us as a gift. I want to protect that gift from anything difficult but I realize that there is One who can handle that job much better than I.
And today I recommit to being the best mom I am capable of being to God’s child. For all of His children that he has entrusted Dominic and I with are gifts.