I was a 5th year teacher and a 1st year foster parent when I got the call about placement for a 5 month old baby boy.
Of course I said yes . . . and then promptly went to WalMart and dropped a few hundred dollars on baby things.
I picked my son up that night outside of a local Chinese restaurant, and he’s been my joy and my challenge ever since, even thought the official adoption didn’t go through until 3 years later.
Looking back, it seems like my angel-baby has always had struggles. He received preschool support services for speech and fine motor skills, but he had no diagnosis. After he tested out of those services, and as he got older, I began to notice that he wasn’t quite on track with his peers reaching those ‘milestones’ of early childhood. He also had an overabundance of energy (even for a 3 year old) and a lot of personality ‘quirks’.
After his adoption was finalized we moved back to my home state to be closer to family. He and I both needed that support system.
Since school was looming on the horizon for my son, and as a teacher I know how difficult school can be especially for those with special needs, I decided to have him tested. We went to an organization in the nearest city (we live in the sticks) and had him tested. He got his first diagnosis of ADHD — combined type, and we went to his pediatrician for medication.
Sidebar: As a teacher, I had seen kids who were over-medicated. In deciding on medication for my son, I was very aware of this. I was also very aware that my son needed something to help him manage through the day. I decided to go the medication route, though I know it’s not for everyone.
Our first foray into ADHD meds went pretty well. There was a marked difference in his ability to focus, to ‘hear’ what we were saying, and to control his impulsive behavior.
But I noticed that some of his other behaviors remained — he would get seemingly irrationally upset about changes in routine or schedule, he would fixate on certain songs, videos, or tv shows, he had a very specific, limited diet, certain textures and sounds overwhelmed him, and large groups/loud noises/strangers could cause him to shut down or panic.
So it was back for more testing. This time he was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder — Not Otherwise Specified. He was on the autism spectrum. I remember the doctor asking me how I felt about the diagnosis . . . I felt then like I feel now: we can call it whatever we like, as long as we can help him.
Since the 2nd diagnosis, we’ve had Behavioral Specialist Consultants, Therapeutic Support Staff, Individualized Education Plans, many med changes, and countless appointments.
Through it all, my goal has been to honor the bright, fun, energetic, quirky, and infinitely precious gift of that is my son.