We have reason to celebrate in our house (well, many actually but I will cover one here). And I find this appropriate to be posting on the last day of April which is Autism Awareness Month. We had my son's IEP yesterday. This included full evaluations from the team (OT, SLP, teacher and school psychologist) since he will be entering Kindergarten next year. When we entered the school system in August of 2006 the school district placed my son in the integrated preschool class since that was the least restrictive environment. I understand that reasoning however, after just a short time, the team realized that was not the right setting. I had my reservations from the beginning but I let them try the integrated setting. In late October 2006 the team reconvened to do the same battery of tests as were just performed, including an ADOS test. That ADOS test would be the piece that allowed my son to receive the diagnosis of Autism. His SLP at the time also did a CARS evaluation which is another Autism rating scale. She came up with a score of 39.5 which put him in the severely Autistic range. I have never thought my son was severely Autistic. But these scores showed us the need to place him in the SPICE preschool program which is geared towards children with Autism. I have documented our journey from then on in this blog and shared our news last October when he was released from SPICE and moved into the integrated preschool class again fulltime.
The CARS rating scale was used to evaluate him last month. This time it was done by his current preschool teacher. She gave him a score of 26.5 which is in the Non Autistic range!!!! We still have our formal diagnosis, although our state will require us to re qualify him at his 6th birthday which is coming around the horn. I have my doubts as to whether we will get another diagnosis of Autism but I will cross that bridge when I get to it.
His school SLP completed a battery of tests and he does still qualify for speech, although his vocabulary tests (both expressive AND receptive) fell within normal ranges! Not bad for a child who could barely talk just a couple of years ago! He also qualifies for OT for fine motor assistance and a sensory diet.
He also qualifies for a program in our school district that is for children whose primary disability is in the oral communication realm. It is a small class (10 - 12) as opposed to the large Kindergarten classes (20 - 30) and has 3 aides. The children are held to the same curriculum but they are given more time to cover the material and it can be more child directed. And, we still have him on the waiting list for a charter school which is also very child-centric. Either course will be an exciting new adventure for him and I welcome both programs at this point. From the school district's perspective, we now have a classification of Specific Learning Disability - Oral Expression and Listening Comprehension.
I have always said all along, I could care less what you call my son's challenges, as long as we meet them head on. His school team has accurately assessed him (his teacher's scores and my scores on the Vineland and SSRS were almost EXACTLY the same which was amazing but goes to show how well she knows my son!) and are providing all the supports that we have asked for and that he needs to succeed in school. I cannot ask for anything more than that.
I think of all the progress my son has made and know it is due in large part to our biomedical treatment protocol. The fact that we and the school team are seeing less "Autistic behaviors" is directly attributed to our work to heal his gut, get rid of pathogens, clean up his diet and provide his body with methylation and sulfation support. And, I made sure I told everyone that! I want people to look at my son's scores, his progress and UNDERSTAND why he has made such progress. To understand WHY people have a hard time recognizing Autism in him is to understand our journey towards healing. This is not a fluke, my child is not one in a million. I firmly believe ALL children with Autism can be helped with biomedical support. And here comes my plug for Dr. Woeller. He has directed our progress and it is with his guidance that my son has achieved such dramatic success. I do not proclaim that ALL children who do biomed will lose their diagnosis but I will say they will all be healthier and when you are healthier you do function better, period. Not such a hard concept really.
So, there is our exciting news. My son has made so much progress and his future seems brighter than ever. Kindergarten is around the corner and I am enthusiastic that whichever path we go (school district or charter) he will thrive and excel, which is always my hope. And, my goal for sharing is to 1) brag a little and 2) offer some HOPE to others out there in the same boat. I have been working for the last 3 years with my eye on this prize, getting him into a kindergarten class as functional as possible. We are there! He definitely needs some supports and our school is providing them. Now I need to stop, do my own reassessment and set some new goals for my son's future. I love the Taca tagline on their website "Some of our families have been told to put their child in an institution. We're hoping for Harvard.". I think it is so appropriate. Autism is an epidemic, more families will face this childhood disorder than any other and yet there is so much hope for healing and recovery. Never give up, never count your child out. That reminds me of a quote on our old SLP office "Aim for the moon and even if you miss you will land among the stars!".