Tuesday, September 13, 2011

It's [Not] in the Label

He loves to learn, is inquisitive beyond any creature I've ever encountered.

He is disturbed by changes in his schedule and has a hard time transitioning with unexpected events.

He absorbs information like a sponge and reads anything he can get into his hands.

He prefers to avoid loud situations and isn't inclined to take risks.

He is above the rest of his class in academics as well as cognitive thinking processes.

He often cringes when receiving physical contact; other times he craves strong bear hugs and "rough-housing".

He wants to be a scientist, discover something new, make something amazing and be well known for his brain.

He frequently obsesses about certain objects, unanswered questions or open ended schedules.

He processes language as an adult and has the vocabulary of a collegiate scholar.

He has trouble with certain textures, materials and tastes.

He analyzes situations from all angles and usually comes up with the correct summation without difficulty.

He struggles in many social situations and has difficulty making friends his own age.

He is my eight year old son, Ean and he is amazing!

There is also a high probability that he has Asperger's Syndrome.

I say probability because I have never had him tested for AS. I have done this for a number of reasons.
Ean was about 20 months old when I noticed some delays, mostly gross motor. He didn't jump until he was nearly 2. His coordination was poor and is to this day. He was unwilling to take risks when playing on things like a jungle gym, a balance beam or trampoline. He did not accomplish a front roll until he was nearly 4yrs old and had been in gymnastics class for 6 months.

He also had trouble in social situations. He was afraid to approach other kids and would get very upset because he felt like he couldn't play with anyone. On the flip side, he loved speaking with adults, especially Senior Citizens. He seemed to be drawn to them.

When he was around 2 he became an extremely picky eater and he continues to be. He began spitting foods out and often times vomiting when he didn't want to swallow something. He began to throw temper tantrums at the dinner table when anything new was introduced. At 8 years old, dinner will still end the same way if I were to force him to take one bite of a new food.

Around the age of 2 1/2 to 3, he began to show a great deal of anxiety. In some situations it was so severe that he would, again, vomit from the stress. His anxiety peaked about the age of 7 and has since shown a great deal of improvement however there are still many times when a panic attack occurs.

Ean began counseling when he was about 6 1/2. At the time he was tested for a sensory impairment but did not qualify for school services. He did see an Occupational Therapist for 2 years to work on controlling his body (The "How Does Your Engine Run?"program did wonders for him, I highly recommend it!).

He also spent a few months with a Speech Therapist to work on feeding issues. It was a VERY slow process but after 6 months, he began eating peas without any issues. He loves them now but that is the only new food he has added in 6 years.

The school psychologist suggested we conduct the testing for Autism when Ean was in the first grade. As a former special education teacher with a number of years working within the Autism spectrum, I felt it was unnecessary. During all this time, Ean has done extremely well in school. He has shown very few problems in the classroom. In fact, the teachers have been shocked to find out he was in counseling because he was such a model student. The issues seemed to only occur at home. I felt that in all likelihood he might be diagnosed as having a high-functioning form Asperger's Syndrome.

I was concerned that Ean would become a label and not an individual. I encountered a number of people who would ask about him. I would let them know I suspected he had AS and they would ask about what it was. If I were to state that it is a very high-functioning form of Autism, I would immediately hear a sigh in their voice and a "ahhh." I don't want Ean to become a "sigh." I want him to be "EAN!"

There are some individuals who benefit from being labeled, of this I have no doubt. I also feel that in many situations, a label can bring about unnecessary roadblocks. I worried that this would be the case with Ean and so, we have worked outside of school on coping skills. He does quite well with them too. I'm very proud of him.

Everyone is more than their label! I believe that part of achieving a Five Star Life is moving beyond the label and being joyful in everything that makes a person unique! As Ean grows, I hope he continues to be accepting of his differences from "the norm" and begins to understand how truly amazing his uniqueness makes him.

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