Saturday, July 3, 2010

Another Autism Dad - An Introduction

My name is Joe. I'm a professional photographer, student and for the last 2 years or so I've been the primary care-giver for my two kids, Maria (5) and Joseph (3.5). Last autumn, my school schedule required me to put the kids in daycare for a few hours a week while I went to some classes that couldn't be coordinated with my wife's full-time work schedule, and that's when our adventure began.

Joseph wasn't talking when he started at daycare. We kept hearing things like, 'It's ok, younger siblings start talking later." or "Boys develop their speech more slowly than girls." So I wasn't terribly concerned. Because Maria was one and a half when Joseph was born, I didn't take them out much. I was always concerned about having Maria run off and not being able to chase her with a newborn in tow, or one of my greatest fears, both of them pooping in their diapers... AT THE SAME TIME.

One of the first times I was really confused by Joseph, I had arranged a rare playdate with a friend who had a son that was a month or two younger than Joseph. My friend's son talked to his mother. He interacted with her. They played together. I thought that he and Joseph would play, but instead Maria played with my friend's son, and Joseph sat underneath the jungle-gym playing in the mulch and occasionally trying to run off to explore the park beyond the playground.

When I went to pick the kids up from their first day of school, I had expected that Maria would have some behavioral problems in the new atmosphere. Upon entering the school, I got to Maria's classroom first, where I was told that everything went fine. Then I got to Joseph's room, where his teacher looked a little frantic and told me that he had been scratching himself, refused to lay down at nap time, entirely ignored any attempt to verbally correct his behavior, put his head in the bookshelves and knocked it against the shelves, CLIMBING the bookshelves. I was totally off-balance, I hadn't expected this. We thought perhaps he needed time to acclimate to the classroom environment. But waiting didn't seem to help much.

In November, when Joseph was just 2 months away from his third birthday, we took him to get his hearing checked. They said it was totally normal. We had his speech evaluated and they said he had the speech level of a one year old. When we got these reports back, we told his teacher about them. She suggested contacting  the state to have him evaluated, but she wasn't particularly specific.

In January, shortly after his third birthday, I called the department to which she had referred me, and they told me that they only handle kids under three years old, and that he was now under the jurisdiction of our local school district. By this point, we had been given more information about Autism Spectrum Disorders. I had found the M-CHAT and reviewed the DSM-IV section on ASD, and we thought that this totally explained not only the speech, but the lack of interest in socialization, and all these cute little idiosyncrasies that he had. We knew that sorting things and lining things up in rows was a "stereotyped" behavior, but we didn't realize that so was walking on tip-toes, and only last night we watched a YouTube video of the "hand flapping" that we've read about and we realized that he does that sometimes when he gets excited.

At this point, Joseph has been in weekly speech therapy since May, and Dublin Schools has accepted Joseph into their special needs preschool program. He just finished three weeks of summer school yesterday. He's already talking more. Just a couple of weeks ago, he brought me a cup and said, 'Juice." This, as far as I can remember, is the first time that he has spoken when he was NOT simply repeating something that was said to him. Usually he just hands me the cup and expects me to put something in it for him to drink. A week ago, he was trying to walk through a crowded kitchen of adults and he said, ''Scuse me!' We're very optimistic about his progress in this short period.

We're on a list, waiting to be called by OSU Medical Center for a research study where they will evaluate Joseph and officially diagnose him with an ASD (if that is indeed appropriate, which we're 95% sure it is) and my wife and I will participate in a program for training parents how to deal with children with autism.

I've occasionally written about individual experiences I've had with Joseph on my Facebook, but I feel that a dedicated blog for the subject is called for. Hopefully, I will update it regularly and don't abandon it as I have my political blog. :) Hopefully, it will help someone else. I know that one of the most comforting experiences I've had in the last 6 or 7 months was talking to the mother of a 4 year old girl with PDD-NOS, comparing symptoms between her child and Joseph. They had so much in common and it made me feel like I wasn't alone.

Coming up, now that summer school is over and Joseph will be at home all day, we're going to attempt toilet training. I'm sure that I will have much to write about it. :)


  1. Excellent idea for a blog. I'll continue to follow it. I hope to see the progress your son makes described here.

  2. I'll be following with interest, Joe.