About 3 months after Devin came to live with us, we were in a local medical office with a psychologist for an autism evaluation. As much as I wanted answers, I was scared at the same time — if he did have autism, what was that going to mean for him throughout his life? And was it something that we were going to be able to handle?
Our First Evaluation
The psychologist and I both struggled to keep Devin focused on what he was supposed to be doing. Upon entering the room, Devin was delighted to see there was a window and he immediately ran to it. As he looked out the window, he noticed that there was a dead fly in between the glass and the screen and immediately became fixated on the fly. We would have to draw him away from that dead fly in the window numerous times as we conducted the evaluation.
In addition to the dead fly, we were also somewhat restricted by Devin’s speech issues. He also had a difficult time paying attention to the instructions. Our end result was non-conclusive. The evaluation being used was one where he needed to have a score of 30 or higher to considered to have autism; Devin’s score was 28.5. However, the psychologist did diagnose him with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) but wanted to make sure that it was not actually a brain injury suffered before he went into foster care.
Referral to a Pediatric Neurologist
So we were referred to a pediatric neurologist. We traveled 40 miles to her office for our initial consultation, and Devin was very hyperactive after riding in the car. By the time that the doctor entered the examination room, Devin was trying to stand on the examining bed and jump off of it! I could not seem to get it through his head that this was not appropriate behavior and the doctor looked at this little boy and shook her head. She was also certain that it was ADHD, but did order an MRI and a sleep-deprived EEG — at a hospital 3 hours away from our home. The end result of all of this was that there was no sign of any brain injury.
Our next focus was to get the ADHD under control. We were given a prescription and referred to a child psychiatrist in the town where we lived. Following our first visit to him, he increased the dosage of medication and told me that he was going to recommend that Devin start seeing a behavior therapist from a mental health facility right there in our town.
An Angel Enters Devin’s Life
Even though we did not have an autism diagnosis, the behavior therapist was asked to work with Devin as if he did have a diagnosis since he displayed so many behaviors associated with autism. When Kristy first visited our home, she spend time observing Devin and asking us lots of questions.
On the next visit she outlined how she felt we should approach her therapy with Devin and we were in awe that such help existed! We finally felt like we had a chance of making some progress.
Kristy began meeting with Devin on a weekly basis. She started out working on a few things at home, such as following directions. She also developed some picture schedules of things that Devin needed to do at different times of the day, like brushing his teeth, eating, picking up toys, etc.
After a few weeks she started taking him out to parks and other places, to work with him on accepting the fact that it was time to end one activity and do something else. Gradually they worked up to visiting stores and working on social skills.
Kristy quickly became like a part of our family, even though she only met with Devin once a week. Without her, I am not sure what our lives would have been like. Devin liked her and many times would ask when Kristy was coming back. And the rest of the family had a sense of relief as we learned ways to cope with Devin’s behavior and how to redirect him when things were spiraling out of control!
Finally . . . A Diagnosis
About a year and a half after the first evaluation, Devin’s psychiatrist asked me to contact our local school district and request another autism evaluation. However, this time he wanted it done by someone from a facility in our state that had people more specialized in autism. So in late February we made the 3-hour trip for the next autism evaluation.
The doctors conducting the evaluation started out by asking me a lengthy number of questions. I answered to the best of my ability, but some I could not answer as I was not a part of Devin’s life until he was almost 4. Then they started evaluating Devin.
At the end of the day-long evaluation (it could have been 2 days, but the doctors accepted the results of a couple of tests that had been conducted by our school district), we sat in a meeting room and they said that Devin definitely had autism. They were impressed with the fact that we already had him working with a therapist for social behaviors and told us to keep working with her. They also sent our school district a full report with recommendations on areas to work on.
An Emotional Trip Home
Although I had suspected for almost 2 years that Devin had autism, I was not prepared for the emotional roller coaster that was about to hit me! On one count, I felt vindicated that I had been right about what was going on as well as relief that we had been treating his behaviors as if he had autism.
But at the same time, I was sad — what would life be like for this little boy as he made his way through it? And I was scared — was I going to be able to make all the right choices for him or was I going to mess up?
Please feel free to leave me a comment regarding how you felt when you received your child’s diagnosis! And thanks for reading about more of my journey!