"Take chances. Make mistakes. Get messy." Ms. Frizzle, The Magic School Bus


I'm a single mom with a child on the spectrum. Her daddy went to prison in 2008 after a duii car accident where someone was injured. He won't be released until 2014. Even after his release, I will still be a single mom. Our lives, and many others, were permanently altered because of his decisions. The toughie is that AKA has always been a daddy's girl. She is the real victim here, as the injured party was drunk on the road as well.

Didn't know what to call this blog when I started it when AKA was 3, then asked if she wanted pancakes. She said something that sounded like, "No, Mommy, scaredapancakes." So that's what it's called.

AKA is [4] and turns into different insects and animals (and characters from The Magic Schoolbus) at will. Since age 3 she has terrible sensory/anxiety reactions to hearing her real name, Mia. She loudly demands to be called by the name-of-the-day, instead of her own name. No exceptions. If the house was burning down and I was calling her name to find her, she would probably scream the correction through the flames, "'No! The house is on fire,' Butterfly!" or 'Ralphie' or 'Arnold.'

Many of her behaviors are typical for her age. Many are just quirky. But enough of them got her diagnosed on the autism spectrum: the echolalia (except she does the reverse: insists I repeat what SHE says); the rituals; the social problems; the sensory issues; the communication disorder; and largely, the meltdowns. She is verbal and building more relational connections every day, which puts her on the high functioning end of the spectrum--but not Asperger's because of her history of speech delays/disorders. Her communication deficiencies are more of the disorder variety, rather than just delay. She has receptive language deficiencies. She hears everything all mixed up, and as a result, everything comes out all mixed up, which leads to meltdowns over misunderstandings. She has trouble with pronouns and expression of anything intangible. Her thinking and expression is based on what is tangible and concrete. She can describe things she is seeing right at that moment, and has difficulty asking and answering questions.
An example of a "conversation" with AKA at age 3 1/2 was like this:
Checker at the grocery store: "So are you ready for Christmas?"
AKA: "Ready for Christmas?"
Checker (confused look): "...what is Santa going to bring you?"
AKA: "Santa bring you?"
Checker (more confused): "Are you a little parrot?"
AKA: "Are you a little dolphin?!" (She was pretending to be a dolphin that day)
Checker: "Well, Merry Christmas..."

The medical outlook is good, with therapy. AKA has been in special ed preschool since November 2010 where she gets speech therapy and occupational therapy (she also attends a preschool for typically developing kids daily as well). At special ed they have had great success teaching her pronouns via repetitive drills. When I say, "That's mine," her face lights up with recognition and she proudly proclaims, "That's YOURS." It's a little robotic, but better than when the only pronoun she would ever use was "YOU," and instead of saying "me," she would say "Mommy, help you," "Mommy, carry you," etc.
AKA was officially diagnosed on the spectrum December 2010. But it was no surprise, more like relief. At least now I know the enemy and there is vast research and therapies for autism these days. In the old days no one knew what it was and the kid was just deemed "weird." Mothers were accused of "cold parenting."

AKA did not just develop autism symptoms overnight or after vaccinations. Everything about her today is consistent with the day she was born, and how she behaved even in the womb. Her first pediatrician mentioned autism at her 12 month check. The senior physician at the clinic then negated further investigation (it's hard to diagnose a baby anyway, plus, girls are underdiagnosed). Then there was concern at her 2 year check about speech delays and need for evaluation. I decided to wait it out (everyone around me who knows more about kids than me kept saying, "Oh, she'll outgrow it.") Then autism came up again at her 3 year check up. It was then that I pursued developmental assessment. Also, AKA's preschool teachers have made various, gentle comments around the issue. I say "around" because no one wants to come out and say "autism." It took a 3 hour evaluation by a panel of 5 specialists to say it. The conclusion drawn by the group of developmental pediatric specialists was "high-functioning autism."

Again, the outlook is good. The best treatment for autism is in the classroom. She is already logging about 25 hrs a week between the two preschools. By the time she reaches elementary age, I believe she will be perfectly capable of functioning in classes with typically developing kids.

And no, she doesn't do any cool tricks.