Tina Szymczak

The first three and a half years of my son’s life was utter turmoil. Then we adopted him and gave him a stable home and the next seven years were spent going from doctor to doctor; professional to professional. Along the way we gathered diagnosis – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Tourette Syndrome (TS); Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); Intermittent Explosive Disorder; Sensory Integration Disorder (SID); Learning disabilities (LD) and held them tight as we researched them and received varied amounts of treatment for each.  However, even after all of these diagnoses, it still felt like we had missed something.  I tried to talk myself out of it – telling myself “enough is enough, now you are just trying to make things up” but I knew I wasn’t. I knew deep down that we still didn’t have the whole picture.Family, Funnel Cakes and Ferris Wheels

Over the years I danced around the possibility that was Autism.  I work in Early Intervention – I see kids with Autism all the time. When I described Corbin to people they automatically assumed he had Autism.  But I had a problem – I didn’t want to believe my child had Autism.  For years the diagnoses had piled up but we were repeatedly told we didn’t qualify for services such as Respite or Special Services at Home. We were told “If he had Autism then you would qualify”. It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth – every day I would see children with fewer needs than my own child receiving supports that we didn’t qualify for.  Then June 2009 came along and we met with the Developmental Pediatrician and were given a diagnosis of Autism.

“I don’t know whether to be relieved or be sad” I said to the doctor and settled on being a bit of both. “He’s still the same child” she said to comfort me.  But amazing how even though he was supposed to be the same child the world of Autism opened up and suddenly we were being offered activities and supports that had been off limits to us just the day before.  It made me feel bitter and indignant.  Children with Mental health issues need services just as much as kids with Autism.

So this is the head space I was in when we received the diagnosis. Unlike other diagnosis I kept this one close to my chest, not wanting to have to debate with people whether they felt he truly had it or not. Our local children’s mental health facility wanted to put us through another assessment before they would provide services. I decided we had enough jumping through hoops and we would just walk away from the little bit of help they would have given us.

When I talk about my son I am more likely to talk about his mental health challenges and his newest diagnosis of Intellectual Disability (formerly Developmental Disability) than I am his Autism. I have thought long and hard about why that is. If I am honest it is for two reasons. First, I feel bad about families who are struggling with their child’s mental health. I identify strongly with those families and I want them to know they are not alone. Second, for us, the Autism has been the least of our worries.  We understand this is not the case for other families, which is why I have hesitated to share this side of our story.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not ashamed of this diagnosis nor ashamed of my son.  I am extremely proud of who he is and how far he has come and I hope that he can embrace who he is – the sum of all these parts.

April 18, 2016

Reconciling Autism

The first three and a half years of my son’s life was utter turmoil. Then we adopted him and gave him a stable home and the next seven years were spent going from doctor to doctor; professional to professional. Along the way we gathered diagnosis – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Tourette Syndrome (TS); Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD); Intermittent Explosive Disorder; Sensory Integration Disorder (SID); Learning disabilities (LD) and held them tight as we researched them and received varied amounts of treatment for each.  However, even after all of these diagnoses, it still felt like we had missed something.  I tried to talk myself out of it – telling myself “enough is enough, now you are just trying to make […]
April 15, 2016

Self Advocacy

In 2010 our son Corbin was in crisis and needed to have a residential placement at the Child and Parent Resource Insititute (CPRI) in London Ontario. While he was there we were able to start the process of having him diagnosed with Bipolar disorder (on top of all his other diagnosis – Tourette’s, ADHD, OCD, Disturbance of Attachment, Autism, Sensory Integration Disorder and probably more I just can’t think of right now). His time at the residential placement ended prior to completing the assessment for Bipolar. Following his time at CPRI we transitioned him (rather poorly) to our local children’s mental health agency for ongoing services while we continued the assessment process and subsequently began trying medication to better manage […]
March 26, 2016

Compromise

I have always believed in inclusion. Long before I had my own children I worked with children with disabilities and I helped those families to advocate to have their child included. When I would meet a parent or professional that didn’t believe in inclusion I would be aghast. Doesn’t everyone want to be included, to join in, to belong? Even before I had kids I joined a local grassroots not for profit that was all about inclusion. Then came my own kids each with their own challenges. We chose our local Catholic board as they believe in inclusion unlike the public board (their idea of inclusion was to let some kids join their grade for gym or art and spend […]
March 10, 2016

Absent

I know I have been absent of late. It’s not because I don’t want to write or even that I have writer’s block. It quite simply is because I put my back out and between trying to find comfortable positions, popping Tylenol 3’s and attending Physiotherapy the writing has taken a back burner. I will be back soon, thanks for checking in.
February 8, 2016

What I Want You to Know About My Struggles with Depression

I want you to know . . . . . . I have struggled with anxiety and depression for most of my life . . . As a teenager I was hospitalized 11 times and one of the last notes in my medical file from that time indicates my prognosis was “poor”. . . . that through my 20’s we experienced several life stressors including infertility but I was able to stay healthy . . . when I don’t show up to group events it is because my anxiety has gotten the better of me and I can’t face everyone. . . . I feel anxious making phone calls, even to close friends and family . . . my husband […]
January 28, 2016

Overcrowded Mind

The words whipped around in my head. Over and over, multiple conversations occurring within my overcrowded mind. I closed my eyes and tried to will quiet in my brain. It didn’t work. The voices in my head mocked me for even trying. I was so desperate to not feel so hollow, so hopeless, so helpless. My hand in my pocket wrapped tighter around the pill bottle. If only, I thought, I was brave enough to end it all. Then the voices would stop and I would no longer feel like I was in the bottom of a very very deep pit. My heart raced at the thought of taking the pills. I tried to fight my way out of the […]