Monday, June 4, 2012

My Boy and Me: 2 Diagnoses

We've suspected for years, but now it's official: Our 8-year old has ADHD/Asperger's Syndrome.  At the end of this school year we completed his IEP (Individualized Educations Plan), so we now have legal measures in place to ensure he has access to fair education and treatment (aka- he can't be punished for just "acting up").

Here's a link to a great site by a guy with Asperger's.  It has brief, funny descriptions and cartoons of common traits in kids with Asperger's Syndrome.  

While the ADHD has been obvious for some time, there is no clear test to determine whether someone is an Aspie.  The biggest indicators for Gregory are:

  • His severe sensitivities to stimulation, like light, sound and touch.  He gets irrationally upset and even outraged at people, accusing them of maliciously hurting him when they've just bumped into him in passing.  He can't stand tags, rough clothes or anything he feels is tight.  Certain food textures he can't handle either.
  • He gets hyper-focused on one particular thing for an extended period of time.  When he was little he was proficient in EVERYTHING to do with trains and construction vehicles- all the mundane details and facts that would bore most adults.  Right now it's Lego's.  He has numerous set numbers and pieces memorized, and calculates how much allowance he must save up to buy which ones when.  He even uses a Lego CADD program to design his own models (that we could then buy if we were filthy rich)  And he will tell you about it non-stop unless you pointedly ask him to stop- another common trait in Aspies.
  • He takes everything literally.  Sarcasm is a foreign language to him, meaning he tends to get offended by people trying to be amusing.
  • He's an avid rule enforcer.  Aspies are often referred to as "the policeman" of the environment they're in.  This doesn't usually win many friends :(  He also has to feel that there is "justice" in everything.  He has no flexibility with rules and sees most everything in black-and-white, A + B always = C.
  • He struggles with transitions.  We've been concerned that this could be a problem with the nature of the military being so mobile.  But so far, if he can anticipate big changes, like a move, he actually gets excited about it.  It's the unexpected, minute-to-minute changes that send his world careening into chaos. Like if we suddenly change our schedule that morning, he becomes very irritable and will even pitch a fit.
  • He rarely will look you in the eyes.  When I observe him in social settings, he is most comfortable with 1 friend or by himself.  Some Aspies are completely indifferent to whether people like them or not.  I think Gregory will be the type who is sensitive to it, though.

As for me...


More of surprise, but in retrospect painfully obvious, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder Type 2, which is the less severe type.

For me it explains so much of how I've lived the past 15 years of my private life (Biplor disorder usually develops in teenagers during puberty.  I'm certain that was the case for me).  People generally only share the best stuff for everyone to see on facebook.  At least I do.  I've often agonized about the perception some may have of me being a "super-mom".  Of course, those who are really close to me know better.  Like my kids :(

Now that I have a better understanding of why I respond to and perceive situations the way I do, I am able to be more subjective.  I've also started a conservative amount of medication that has made a vast difference in my mood swings.

I feel terrible about relationships that I didn't treat right, past and present.  Understand that I do NOT blame my actions on the diagnosis, but I can see now how my poor decisions were magnified by the disorder.  But now that I'm getting treatment, life is SO much more bearable and I can move forward.

When I was first diagnosed, almost a year ago, I was unsure about who to reveal it to.  There is a very negative stigma attached to anything to do with Bipolar disorder.  I was a bit ashamed and worried that people would think I'm some kind of psycho.

But I recently read a good friend's revelation on her blog about her struggles with depression and her realization that by keeping it to herself, she may be denying someone else the chance to make connections that they may need to seek help, or at least not feel alone in their struggles.  I realized that that applies just as much to me.

Medication and therapy have by no means cured me.  I still struggle.  But I no longer feel controlled by the passions and ambitions that used to consume my life.  I'm so grateful for the promptings of the spirit, and the support of my faithful, loving and PATIENT husband, that gave me the courage to seek help.


Randy and Sarah said...

Debbie, I am so happy to here that you both will be able to get the help that you need. As for Kia talk to the occupational therapist about starting a deep pressure therapy. I have seen it do wonders for students on the Autism spectrum. They are clam, handle situations better, and are more agreeable. There is also a deep pressure therapy for the mouth that will help enable him to try new foods with various textures.

Do not be afraid to stand up for what you want for him, just because he has an IEP does not mean that the teacher knows best. Become acquainted with support groups and get to know your rights. The district and/or school should provide you with a copy of your procedural safeguards, if not ask for it. If you have any questions that I might be able to help you with, let me know, shoot me an email. Reply to the post and it will email me!! Good Luck!!

Debbie Olsen said...

Thank you so much for your words of support! We were fortunate to get his first IEP in place at this school, here on base where they're not as overwhelmed- I really felt like everyone truly cared about Gregory and his needs. We'll see how it goes transferring to a new school this fall. I've read a lot on Aspergers, have many friends who have Aspie children, and am networking with other LDS families blessed with Autistic children :)
We're so blessed to live in an age of communication and increased acceptance :D

Debbie Olsen said...

Oh, and we have dappled in the deep tissue massage. I don't do it very regularly, but when he's really strung up, like at church, I find it soothes Kai to deeply massage his shoulders out down his arms, and his thighs out to his toes. Like being in labor ;) Honestly I didn't think he really needed the OT (this is the not-autistic child), but it was great having both an OT and a speech therapist.
The speech therapist and I have become great friends and she's working on her masters in special education. She actually used Gregory in one of his school projects, being his aide and trying out minor adjustments in his classroom space- and they made a great difference. We've been so blessed