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Autism: A Mother Looks at Diagnosis

Doing the Research Together
Most of the time, Rob and I felt pretty confident about the interventions and therapists we had selected. Occasionally, though, you have doubts. For example, right after Andrew turned three, he had a down period (with Andrew there were occasionally times when he either didn't make progress or even appeared to slide backward for a few weeks), and we both felt a little panicky. We knew of some families who had made great progress with a series of interventions that involved long hours of the children's sitting at tables being drilled by trained therapists. From the beginning, we had felt strongly that we didn't want our very young child involved in any therapy that felt more like work than play. It just didn't feel natural.

But with Andrew plateauing, Rob and I wondered whether we were making a mistake not to try an approach that had so many previously nonverbal kids talking. So we started asking all the experts we knew and respected what their opinion was of that particular approach.

And not one of them thought we should pursue it. They all agreed that a bright, motivated kid like Andrew was going to make progress either way, but on the path we had chosen – where all interventions were playful and fun – he would simply become more and more motivated and social. And while it was true that Andrew's language might increase more quickly with drilling, most felt it would be at a cost, that he would become more robotic in his responses, more like a joyless trained animal and less like a normal kid.

Rob and I talked it all out, and we decided that we wanted to stick with interventions that mimicked the way most kids learn, through play and socializing. Maybe we'd lose a little time, but we were fairly confident the end result would be better.

We did the research, thought and talked about it, and in the end we continued on our way, feeling we had made the best choice for our son, who was soon learning and growing again.

And Here We Are
There was a time when I thought I would never hear my child say "Mommy," never be able to give him a simple direction and have him follow it, never send him alone on a play date to a friend's house, never drop him off at school without wondering if he would spend the day isolated and unreachable.

Now he's excitedly planning his sixth-grade year at a regular private middle school, where he'll be treated like any other student, and where we expect him to bring home good grades and make new friends.

Things change. They get better.

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From Overcoming Autism by Lynn Kern Koegel, Ph.D. and Claire LaZebnik. Copyright © 2004. Used by arrangement with Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

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