Me and my kiddo

Me and my kiddo

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Three Sparkles

I just wanted to note three special-needs programs that have brought extra sparkles to our lives.  After another long day today dealing with my kiddo's sensory seeking challenges, I wanted to write about something that brought smiles and sparkles (not sighs and sadness).

Challenge Air is a program that allows children to actually fly an airplane.  Cameron first did it when he was four years old, but when he was five he really got how special and thrilling an experience it was.  Check out this look of utter glee and excitement and delight:

That's something super precious.  He talked about how he "banked the plane" for years.  I'll admit having your young child holding the controls of a plane when you're way up in the air is a wee bit stressful, but when he looked back at me with this face... the delight and pride and joy he felt was palpable... it lasted, it's priceless.  I use this photo as my phone wallpaper to this day.

Last year, Cameron scuba dove for the first time with this program.  The first thing he told me when getting out of the water was... he was awesome.  He knew how hard it had been to overcome the sensory challenges of using a regulator and he was super proud of himself.  He went again this year and finished off swaggering up the steps and handing me a piece of giant kelp as a present.

Finally, at ten years old, my kiddo didn't know how to ride a bike.  His classmates would zoom by and he'd get that look, but he said he didn't want to learn.  He was willing to attend this day camp  though that focused on helping special-needs kids learn how to ride a bicycle gradually.  We got back last week and he's no longer part of that statistic of 80% of kids with Autism who never learn to ride a bike.  He can head off down the road with his dad, head high.

So, on a rough day, I wanted to celebrate these programs that help add sparkles to the steeper climb of kiddos with additional challenges.  Thank you Challenge Air, Special Kids Scuba, and iCan Bike.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Symptom Diagnoses

One of the things that I think is fundamentally important to understand about Autism is that it is a symptom diagnosis.  Like hypertension or ADHD, what is defined by such diagnoses is a symptom or set of symptoms.  This is very different from diagnoses like Malaria or Sickle Cell Anemia or Down Syndrome where the diagnosis includes the cause, the reason the particular symptoms are seen.

Thus, a diagnosis of Autism only says that the person displays a certain set of symptoms, but it says nothing about why that is happening.  As understanding grows, I think it highly likely that we'll discover this grouping includes widely disparate causes that do not belong under the same title because they are fundamentally different (and will respond to widely disparate interventions).

For any symptom diagnosis, probing into potential causes can be highly useful.  That doesn't mean that the actions to directly address symptoms are ignored, but it does mean that the diagnosis is a label with a big question mark at the end... why?  Maybe a kid isn't focussing well because he has food/environmental allergies or GI pain or dyslexia or... there are many potential reasons.  Kids are also often unaware or unable to articulate clearly what they're experiencing.

This isn't an admonition to spend every moment probing potential causes as I could easily spend my life reading Autism resources and miss the joys of parenting (along with many others)!  It's just a note to keep in mind that a symptom diagnosis only gives a surface level description and seeking to understand what is underneath in your or your child's particular case can yield great rewards.

Of course, no diagnosis or label defines a kid... you never know when a kiddo with social deficits might surprise you and plunge joyfully into a kid sandwich like mine did two days ago!