This parenting gig is tough. I’ve heard people say just give your children love. Loving them is the easy part. The job requires so much more than that. Every parent questions if they are doing it right. So many situations arrive that you just have to go with your gut. Having a child on the spectrum makes this parenting gig even tougher. Yes, there are resources to help you along the way, but advice is varied and each child responds differently. I recently received some much-needed validation that the decisions my husband and I have made were the right one’s for my child and we have measurable progress to show for it.
One of the hardest decisions we made early in this journey was to use medication to help my son manage his ADHD symptoms. This was before we received the Autism diagnosis. He wasn’t focusing in school and was falling behind. His sensory seeking behaviors were also effecting his classroom experience. He’s been on the medicine for a few years now and we go to med checks with his pediatrician every six months. His most recent check up was after school and his medicine had worn off. The doctor got a good look at his impulsive behavior and sensory input during the visit. My child wasn’t behaving badly, he was behaving instinctively. He loves the sound and feel of the paper on the exam table, so he was rolling his whole body all over the table while making noises with his mouth. The doctor and I got a little chuckle out of it, but it also lead to a real discussion about managing these types of behaviors.
The medicine is a game changer for my child and he wouldn’t be successful in school or at home without it. I so wish he didn’t need it but he does. Honestly, I think it would be unfair to not give it to him (a sentiment share by our pediatrician and occupational therapist). He doesn’t have the ability to self regulate without the medicine and asking him to is unrealistic. It would be like expecting a diabetic to regulate their kidney function without insulin. Yes there are life style changes you can make that will help, but there comes a time when more than that is necessary. There is so much in the media about over medicating kids and the over diagnosis of ADHD that I sometimes question myself. This doctor’s appointment allowed me to see the doctors reaction to my son and it validated that we are doing what is right for my child.
We have also been taking my son to Occupational Therapy for a couple of years now. The progress is slow going and at times it looks they are just coloring and swinging. We’ve been going long enough that I realize there is more to it and everything they do has a reason. He’s had the same therapist this whole time and she is important to him. She has to assess him every so often for insurance purposes and the latest assessment revealed some big changes. It was the first time in all the years we’ve been going that he was within a year of his chronological age on the test. His fine motor went from that of a 4.5 year old six months ago to 9.5. Huge strides are taking place. This really is due to following my gut. I didn’t understand what occupational therapy was going to do for him, but it was suggested and I trusted the professionals whose advice I sought out. The things we have learned in OT make a difference in our sons life every day at home and at school.
There are a ton of books full of advice on Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADHD and sensory issues. It can be overwhelming with different types of therapy, medicine and diets. Some people swear by certain regimens and swear off others. As an advocate for your child, you have to do your own research, trust the professionals you whose input you asked for and go with your gut. Progress takes time and patience. Sometimes you need those on the outside looking in to see the difference and validate all the work being done.