Sunday, November 18, 2012

Our life with autism

Its been a looong time since we had a chat about autism. Maybe because Tanner is doing so well. Maybe its because we don't focus on the diagnosis, just the kid. I'm not sure. But because its been so long, I'm going to give a little history.
Tanner was baby number two. Mondo was 3 years old, and Tanner was my beautiful blond, blue eyed baby  that I'd always wanted. He was a fabulous baby. He rarely ever cried, and he could entertain himself for hours on end! When Tanner was almost 3, we had concerns because he didn't have a single word. We checked his hearing, to make sure that was normal. When that test came back fine, we had a speech therapist start coming to the house to work with him. After a few months, she was the one who asked if we had ever looked into an autism diagnosis. I was shocked! I didn't know much about it at the time, this was nearly 9 years ago, before the big autism craze. But when she talked about the symptoms, and I googled it, I was even more shocked that it fit Tanner to a T!
Tanner NEVER played with other children. Ever. He would hug us, but anyone else was off limits. He used to play with a big bucket of hot wheels or Thomas trains. He used to hold a train upside down and spin the wheels right in front of his face. Over and over again. He used to take the cars out of the bucket one by one. drive it down the couch, park it, and go to the next car. When the were done, he'd start over. Hours and hours he would do this. It made me think back to when he was a baby. How he'd sit in his swing for hours, swinging so happily, never crying.
So at age 3 he was diagnosed with Autism by a physican specializing in the disorder.
In preschool, he went to an autism school, and it was so amazing. That school is what brought Tanner out of his shell. He started the year with no words, and by the end of the year we couldn't get him to shut up! They decided for elementary school he was ok at a normal school with resource classes mixed in. He did ok for a couple years. His 3rd grade year was an utter disaster! I truly think that Tanner can read his teacher. If he doesn't get someone great, he completely shuts down. If it wasn't for his resource teacher, we wouldn't have survived the year! She took him kicking and screaming every single day! As he got older his symptoms of autism changed. It turned into major anxiety. The weather totally freaked him out. If there was a cloud in the sky, he had a complete meltdown that it was going to rain. Wind and lightening and thunder was the worst for him. He would go down to his room in the basement and put a pillow over his head. That year was when we finally decided it would be in his best interest to start a med for anxiety. We also debated about trying to get him back in the autism school.
The anxiety med seemed to really help, and the next year we made sure he had a great teacher, and he did much better.
Tanner is extremely small for his age. Carter has outgrown him and outweighs him by about 15lbs. At 11 years old he weighs a measly 64lbs. Every single kid in his class is one to two feet taller than him. He is a skinny, scrawny kid!
I don't believe that you can "cure" autism. Tanner will always have his autistic tenancies. But I also think that there is no reason to believe that won't be able to function as an adult and have a normal life.

Last week we had Tanners IEP meeting after California did all their own testing. I was really shocked at the results. I'm still trying to wrap my head around it. As a 6th grader, Tanner is academically at a 3rd grade level! That is a lot lower than I expected him to be. The school wants to pull him out of his regular class more, so he'll get more individualized attention. They want him to be with kids his own age, so he'll basically be in his regular class just for the fun stuff. I believe had we done this testing before school started, they may have agreed with me to hold him back to 5th grade again! Luckily the special ed people at his school are fantastic! They adore Tanner, and want him to be the best that he can be. She said we need to start thinking about next year, as that will be junior high. I told them straight out that he is NOT going to junior high next year! He doesn't care at all is he stays in 6th grade again. Actually I know he would rather stay, so the classes are more at his level.
As hard as it is to think that Tanner is so far behind, he is really loved by all the students. He is very funny, and he is quite the little dancer!
Tanner still doesn't have friends that he hangs out with after school. He prefers to be home, and if we are gone too long he will start saying he wants to go home. He still has anxiety about certain things, but he's doing much better and he is no longer on medication for that. He gets upset very easily if teased by his brothers. He has a really hard time calming himself down, and we usually have to send him to his room with the door shut so he'll calm himself down. That's like his happy place!
 We will just continue to try and get his schooling to where its best for him to learn and grow. He is still my amazing blond hair, blue eyed boy!!


The VW's said...

What a sweet boy! So handsome!

Chromosomally Enhanced said...

Wow! This is great insight Lacey...autism is something I ow very little hear what is "in" but it interesting that the symptoms change with age...also it is a wonderful outlook to have Tanner be self sufficient...Thanks for teaching me! And what a good looking boy! Smiles

Lisa said...

You are such a good mom, Lacey. You know your kids so well and all their specific needs. Thanks for sharing about Tanner.