Saturday, May 07, 2005

My son is probably autistic

It's not full-blown autism like Rain Man, but we suspect it will be diagnosed as a pervasive developmental disorder (PDD). I don't think I've mentioned the situation on this blog, and it's probably high time.

Son is going to turn 4 years old in late July. He only has a handful of words, very few of which he uses purposively. His repertoire is: cookie, Momma, Dadda, Elmo, Thomas, shoes, goldfish [crackers], juice, and milk (note the emphasis on food: that's my boy!). Multi-word phrases include: "1-2-3!" when gently throwing him onto the couch or into bed; "ready, set go!" in similar situations; "I eat" (again with the food!) which he just started this past Thursday; and "YAY!"

He's a happy kid, though, and for that we're most thankful; many autistic kids are more removed socially or even angry. For those of you who know me in person, fathering a child with only a few words is totally out-of-character being that I usually have trouble shutting the hell up. So, it's not been an easy time around our household, but every day we're thankful for our little guy. He's really a great kid, and we try to focus more on what he can do rather than the things he cannot. I think what is most difficult for me is a limited ability to connect with him verbally. It's not just that he does not talk, but it is hard to tell if he understands what we're saying to him.

One thing that's truly remarkable is his musical ability. He's the product of two musicians, so few of our friends are surprised he's showing musical ability. But he has been singing Mozart and Beethoven tunes far earlier than he spoke his first word. He's learned many of these from songs in toys, Baby Einstein videos, and his Kindermusik classes, but I think a few come from things he hears around the house like my playing piano and my wife's singing. He imitiates songs on pitch with proper rhythm, some of which are difficult for many adults. He's showing scary-good musical talent; I just wonder what's going to happen in a few years. I started playing piano when I was 4, and he's just about there and is way ahead of where I was at his age. If we communicated through music alone, he'd be considered a genuis (no, I'm not biased AT ALL!).

He has been making great progress during this school year. There is a public preschool for chilrdren with developmental delays, and he fits right in. In addition, there's a therapy clinic for kids in town which we take him to twice per week for a joint speech and occupational therapy session. The more active he is physically, the better able he is to mentally focus and learn to speak. It's working really well; Small College Town has been very good to us in this regard.

There will always be the fear of the future for our son. Will he be able to lead an independent life in our society? How will he do in school? However, it's easier, and more important in my opinion, to focus on what he can do in the present day. And that's quite a bit. It's just going to be a wild ride.


Cousin Dave said...

A remarkable little boy, with truly remarkable parents, as I've always known. I can't wait til he starts expressing himself in symphonies. ;D

lemming said...

Wow, Rob - that's a creative parenting challenge, but what am amazing plus to have the ability to communicate through music. I mean, I knew you and The Wife must be amazing parents, but you have a sense of calm and joy in a situation that devastates so many others. Wow.

Rob said...

Thanks for the support, y'all. As far as our parenting, I'm not sure we're "remarkable" or "amazing," but we are indeed now at a calm point in this whole process. Perhaps the fact I've not mentioned it before points to what was a bit of a rocky time. Anyhow, thanks for the good words here.

John B. said...

God bless you both as parents...

Parenting is never easy even under ideal conditions, and you both and your son both have additional hurdles to overcome in the present and future years. Hang in are truly doing the Lord's work!