Sorting It Out

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 […]
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 5, 2016

Figuring It Out

Since I wrote articles for BLOOM and The Mighty I have been thinking a lot about accepting people’s help but even more so HOW do you let people know you need something as you struggle with a disability (mental health, developmental, health)?  I mean it’s easy for me to write that I want friends and family to help me at times but how do I let them know when that time is? What do I do for example when a co-worker asks in passing “How are you”? Do I start in on a long story about how my anxiety is really high and my depression medication has just been increased? I mean how weird would that be? Truthfully I don’t know if I […]
November 18, 2015

It Takes Its Toll

We adopted our first child when I was 28 years old. My plan had been to have at least one kid by the age of 25. We struggled with infertility and since I wasn’t having babies I instead focused on my career in early intervention. I worked my way up to my dream job and the same week I found out I got the job we also found out we were adopting a little boy. A little boy with big blue eyes and an endearing smile. Also a little boy that NEVER stopped moving and was constantly getting himself into trouble. I didn’t know it was going to be so exhausting day in and day out. It wouldn’t have been […]
November 15, 2015

Something Typical

I first knew something was amiss when 5 year old Jeremy said from his car seat “Mom let’s have a meeting” . I looked at him in the rear view mirror and asked “Why should we have a meeting?” “Because you have meetings for Corbin all the time. You are always at a meeting. I want to have a meeting”.  I worked hard not to cry as it settled in just how much time we were spending on Corbin’s life and how little we spent on Jeremy. “What would we do at the meeting?” I asked “Do stuff that I want” and then he paused before saying “I will bring the pens and paper and you bring the Brownies”. Such […]