Autism: Evaluation Complete

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Follow a story of a family whose little boy was diagnosed on the autism spectrum and the steps they took to overcome this diagnosis.

This story is a personal one and should not be taken for any medical advice. This is simply parental advice. If you are questioning the behavior your child is exhibiting please talk to a medical professional to attain a diagnosis through an evaluation.

 

By Becky Horace

The two week evaluation period came and went. Our doctor was pleased with what our son could accomplish but at the same time there were several areas developmentally where he was lacking. After the evaluation, we met to discuss the results. Our son was not labeled “autistic” but with what was seen after the two weeks he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. We were told he has developmental delays in several areas and he would be diagnosed PDD-NOS.

What is PDD-NOS? Here is the definition according to the Autism Speaks website.

“PDD-NOS stands for Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified. Psychologists and psychiatrists sometimes use the term “pervasive developmental disorders” and “autism spectrum disorders” (ASD) interchangeably. As such, PDD-NOS became the diagnosis applied to children or adults who are on the autism spectrum but do not fully meet the criteria for another ASD such as autistic disorder (sometimes called “classic” autism) or Asperger Syndrome.

Like all forms of autism, PDD-NOS can occur in conjunction with a wide spectrum of intellectual ability. Its defining features are significant challenges in social and language development.

Some developmental health professionals refer to PDD-NOS as “subthreshold autism.” In other words, it’s the diagnosis they use for someone who has some but not all characteristics of autism or who has relatively mild symptoms. For instance, a person may have significant autism symptoms in one core area such as social deficits, but mild or no symptoms in another core area such as restricted, repetitive behaviors.”

Our doctor explained it very simply to us, basically there is something going on with our son and his development but we can’t exactly put our finger on it. Before we went into this meeting, I was praying for a miracle. I was praying he would say at the end of this two week evaluation “There’s nothing wrong here! He will be fine.” but at the same time I guess I knew this was coming.

I was heartbroken but relieved that I was now able to help my son. We had an answer. We knew something was wrong and it was finally confirmed. Being a new expat and far away from home meant not having the support of family but it also meant I was no longer a 9-5 working mom. I had the opportunity now to be with my son every step of the way and help him to succeed without any other commitments.

I asked what was next, what was the plan. For the next three to four months we had a plan to work with my son on specific developmental goals that children his age are reaching but he is not, through play therapy. The therapy we would use was known as ESDM: Early Start Denver Model. There will be established goals based on the milestones he should be reaching and while we play we will be focusing on two to three of them at a time. We were told that it might take some time to figure out what form of play our son would respond to and his current ability to learn but once that was determined the doctor could teach me how to continue the therapy at home during our everyday activities. The good news is that you can tell within two weeks if the method you are using is working and if nothing has changed within the first two weeks the plan can be altered quickly.

We have a plan and now it is time to implement and see what happens next. The most encouraging part was during the two week evaluation with the very little we had learned our non-verbal son said dog, bye bye, movie, juju (juice) and please. The doctor expressed how pleased he was with my boy’s ability to problem solve, his gross motor skills, balance, the appropriate use of toys and his conniving… I mean clever ways.

 

Tips from the mom

  1. Stay open.Remain open to the ideas that are going to be coming your way from your child’s physician.
  2. Implementation and consistency is key. The new plan you are given and the new ways to play shouldn’t be viewed as optional. Implement the new behaviors and remain consistent with the plan.
  3. Make home videos. One of the easiest ways to see if you are doing what you have been taught properly is to have someone video you playing with your child. Once you have that video you can share with your doctor and they can point out quickly how you can improve.

 

This will be an ongoing series of articles of our story through an evaluation, diagnosis, treatment and the end results during our son’s last two years of therapy. I will share with you from a parent’s perspective what we have learned and in layman’s terms explain our son’s diagnosis and the type of therapy used to help him succeed.

I hope you enjoy this read and please know no matter how bleak it may seem you are not alone when you are going through this. Parents around the world are in your same shoes looking for support and love; you just have to be open to talk about it.  

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