Saturday, May 31, 2014

Diagnosis: Understanding or Excuse?

A few days ago I had the pleasure of taking my second son out for coffee/hot chocolate before school.  I love the exam schedule that allows us special time together.  It is a joy.

During our latest coffee break, I told Gabe how I realized that I probably have Aspberger's.  He reacted more strongly than I anticipated.  How could I?  Wouldn't I have known before now?  Why wasn't it diagnosed when I was little the way his autism was?

I explained that this type of diagnosis, autism/Asperger's/ADHD, was not common until fairly recently.  As long as a child could walk, talk, and some what function in the world parents didn't normally seek help from doctors.  It just wasn't ever considered.  There were also not the vast array of doctors and therapists available to offer help.

Our conversation continued until I dropped Gabe at school.  One of his final comments was about the increased demands on kids today versus his grandfather's generation.  He is exactly right.  We expect very young children to start reading, writing and sit still for long periods of time.  We expect them to be able to think and function in a world that is filled with constant noise and distraction.  Television, radio, computer, cell phones and video games are constant distraction for kids and adults.

In our present society, we hyper-analyze everything.  We compare "Johnny" to "Joey", Ohioans to Californians, and Americans to Japanese.  Each difference must be explained.  Each deficit must be analyzed.  This has led to more and more people seeking to understand our children's behaviors and developmental issues.

In and of itself, this is a good thing.  Understanding can lead to improvement.  Realizing a problem exists is the first step in a resolution.  This is how I viewed Gabe's evaluation and diagnosis for Autism.  The label would not change him in any way.  I needed the information to better understand how to help him and to rule out other issues such as hearing loss.

Never should a diagnosis be used as an excuse.

I see it happening all the time.  I hear people using a diagnosis of ADHD to excuse poor behavior or bad grades.  Students tell me they can't do something because they have ADHD.  Baloney!  I respond that they have to understand their ADD/ADHD/Autism and work to overcome it.  The look of shock on some of their faces is priceless.

The rules of life do not change just because someone has a diagnosis of ADHD or Autism.  Just because echolalia, poor eye contact and pervasive behaviors are typical for autism doesn't mean they are acceptable behaviors.  I have been criticized for attempting to correct these behaviors in Gabe.  "Don't you know they are characteristics of autism?"  Yes, I know.  I also know they can annoy me to distraction and I don't want to live with them.  If I didn't work to correct them, the situation would never improve.

No Excuses!  If I wouldn't accept a behavior from my neuro-typical son, then I could not accept it from my autistic son.  The ways I went about correcting him and teaching him were the only differences.  What worked with Nate often fell flat with Gabe.  Some people thought I was too harsh or unrealistic.  I have one simple reason to hold Gabe to the same standard as his brother.

Laws do not change for those with Autism.  No excuses. Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store