Friday, March 4, 2016

Somewhere on the Spectrum. Written by Cassandra Atkins

Somewhere on the Spectrum

Fourteen years ago the most amazing thing happened, our oldest son was born. Our lives would never be the same. We were parents. I remember his birth clearly. I also remember my doctor saying, "I have never delivered a baby that held up their own head and looked around the operating room." I remember that quote oh so well. Kind of a foreshadowing. 

He met all of his milestones. He walked at 9 1/2 months and talked the Saturday before he walked. He said bye bye. He was different. He never turned when we called his name. He didn't reach to be picked up but of course our first child, first grandchild for my hubby's parents, so why would he need to ask to be picked up? We had all the answers. My sister kept telling me about how he stared at the tv. A friend's child who was a few months older would repeat Dora, he never would. We had excuses for that, too. Finally, when he didn't keep gaining words, or if he said something no one could understand him, we talked to the doctor. 

She threw her hands up and said ADHD. He's two. She sent us to a psychiatrist. Probably the worst day of my life. He watched our son play. He talked to me and then in under thirty minutes he diagnosed our son with being abused by us. This brilliant doctor, informed me that we had to be abusing him. Why else would he act that way? I mean the fact that he was shocked that our son hated the Billy Bass singing fish on the wall and screamed if it came on but every other kid loved it, proved abuse. I grabbed the diaper bag, grabbed our son and left. I was pregnant with our second child and carrying a 50lb two year old so I didn't move fast. The doctor just sat there trying to convince me that we were to blame. We went back to our pediatrician and told her what was said. She disagreed and wanted to start meds. We refused. 

Fast forward.... he is four and has started speech. His birthday was late so he wasn't in school yet. No one has mentioned Autism. Everyone still said ADHD, and most wanted him on meds, we didn't. He had speech therapy that year but it never really made a difference. Still we went. The following year we moved. He was in pre-k and had an IEP with speech three times a week at school. He turned five that October and started talking, really talking that November. The school was amazing. A regular elementary school. He improved so much. He could handle crowds, partly because to go to the Mardi Gras parades he loved, he had to learn to deal with them. He quit covering his ears around 18 wheelers and even rode on a riding lawn mower. Then we had to move.

To say us moving was hard would be an understatement. The first thing the principal, at the new school, said was he's going to be a problem. He was still in speech and progressing. He was a straight A student. That changed. Speech was still going ok. He stopped reading on grade level. He stopped being ahead of the class in math. He was bullied not just by students but by teachers too. They lost him after school one day. I went to pick him up and they couldn't find him. I had both of his brothers in my van and the vice principal leaned on my door so I couldn't get out. When he came to the van, 15 min later, I asked him where he was. He told us he didn't know, it was a room that he had never seen. He was pushed down and kicked in the ribs by a student and it was caught on camera. Nothing was done until I, who had been notified anonymously, demanded action. He received an in school suspension for the tips of his fingers grazing the waistband of a girl in front of him in line, he was still in second grade. I wasn't notified until the bus driver told me the vice principal put him on the bus crying. He was punched in the stomach and the back while on the bus. Again I wasn't notified until after school by the bus driver. Again I had to call and demand action. They had a field trip and I told them I had to go with him. They wouldn't let me. His teacher, who I trusted and his special ed teacher promised to stay with him. They lost him. He was gone for about 20 minutes. The teacher called me, after school, to tell me. The principal told her if she called me she would be fired. 

Third grade came and his dad and I were threatened with child services. He was 9 and it was time to change his special ed qualification. They were refusing to test him. I refused to give them the misdiagnosis of ADHD. The principal threatened. I won. I informed her of his rights and how she was breaking the law. Oh and the vice principal was fired before the school year started for discrimination against special ed students. Our son's teacher let him sleep because he looked tired. He slept most of the year. He was falling farther behind in reading. 

Fourth grade started and he had a hard time sleeping at night which made him sleepy during the day.  His teacher told him to go sit in the corner and sleep if he wanted to.  So, he did. He had a bully that year and she was bad. Then I got involved and amazingly it stopped. He slept at night for the rest of the year.

We moved a couple of miles down the road and into a different school district. A whole different county. Best thing ever. He is now in 8th grade. The child who we were told would never speak, never write, never run, etc. participated in middle school band for two years, played little league football, and is currently taking robotics as his science elective. Thursday night he read a question out of his 8th grade history book without stumbling. He is making A's in math again. Making A's & B's in all of his classes. It took some work but he is back on grade level. Our current school, with plans to never move again, is amazing. He has had his bullies and been picked on but it was stopped before I even found out. The teachers are great with him, and the students love him.

What I want the parents new to the autism diagnosis to know is that "they" aren't always right. Just because you are told they won't, doesn't mean they can't. Don't let someone saying "it's your fault" stop you. You know it's not your fault. I've discovered a lot of parents have heard this. It's not true. Keep fighting and don't give up hope!!!!

Here is is ready for his first robotics conference.


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2 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this. So many parents with kids that have any condition need to read this. It is not a parents fault if their precious is different. And it is great that they are different.

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    1. I am Cassandra, the mom who wrote this. Thank you. I agree, so many times the parents are blamed and we have done nothing but love our children and fought for them. Then someone goes and says nope you did it and the parent stops. They may begin to think that ignorant person is right or they get scared. My grandmomma was a special ed teacher. I'm not sure I would have done what I did if not for her. She helped me to see and not blame myself. My mom was great with supporting us as well but having grown up around the Special Olympics and my Gmomma cheering us on, that kept us going. We were blessed to have family support. So many don't.

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