Every parent wants only the best for their child, or at least that’s how it should be. No parent ever wants to hear that their child is different or disabled or anything other than just plain normal. As we all know, life is not perfect and as a parent, when a curve ball gets thrown our way it can make for a difficult adjustment.
I’ve always known that one day we would find out that Hayden was hanging out somewhere in the autistic world. A mother’s intuition should always be followed. For years now he has displayed signs but never so obvious that anyone else even noticed, with the exception of me. The truth came out while in Kindergarten and his wonderful teacher, Mrs. Wolden took notice to Hayden. She spoke with his dad and I at conferences near the end of the school year and said that he had little confidence in himself and had been struggling in certain areas and thought perhaps he had ADD. We decided to have the school counselor spend some time with Hayden to find out if she saw the signs and she agreed with his teacher. From there we needed a medical opinion, so we scheduled an appointment with his pediatrician, Dr. Jones-Dees @ Essentia Health. She wasn’t convinced of him having ADD and after a few questions, threw out the ‘D’ word…depression. My heart sank because I never want my children to mentally suffer like that. I just wasn’t convinced that that’s what we were dealing with so she referred us to a psychologist to get another professional’s take on this.
School ended and summer was in full swing when we were finally able to meet with Dr. Willert; finally we were going to get to the bottom of this. He asked Hayden’s dad and I several questions pertaining to when he was born to present day and watched Hayden while he played with the toys in the office. At the end of the consult, I asked him to be very honest with me and tell me what he truly thought was going on and although he wanted more time to give an accurate diagnosis, he suggested PDD (Pervasive Developmental Disorder) and anxiety. Per www.webmd.com, PDD refers to a group of conditions that involve delays in the development of many basic skills, most notably the ability to socialize with others, to communicate, and to use imagination. Children with these conditions often are confused in their thinking and generally have problems understanding the world around them. They also have difficulty in areas of social and emotional development, including:
- Developing relationships with other people, including their parents and children their own age.
- Communicating with other people.
- Having unusual behaviors and interests.
Conditions that are considered PDD are Autism, Asperger’s syndrome and Pervasive Development Disorder not otherwise specified (PDDNOS) (This category is used to refer to children who have significant problems with communication and play, and some difficulty interacting with others, but are too social to be considered autistic.) among other, more rare conditions.
After doing much online research and witnessing the signs myself, I completely agree with Dr. Willert on his diagnosis. We had been visiting his office weekly, at first and then switched to every other week and slowly have cut back on visits but we will be starting again more regularly after the first of the year. My motto through all of this has been, I want Hayden to be as happy and as healthy as he can possibly be and if there is anything I can do to help him, I will. Honestly, it’s a relief to finally have an answer…to better understand how his beautiful mind works and to better understand why he does some of the things he does. For example, when Hayden doesn’t get his way or sometimes, for no apparent reason, he will completely shut down. During this time, most likely, he will not speak, make eye contact or even move and you do not touch or talk to him as this only seems to make it worse. It’s something that is beyond frustrating and I have longed to understand it, and now I do. I cannot recall a single moment in the past 7 years where he has melted in the middle of the aisle in a grocery store, kicking and screaming for not getting something he wants. I always took this as he is just a really good kid (which he totally is) but now I know that it’s just the way he is wired. His brain simply works different than ours…he has no control over it.
Recently I’ve learned that he is struggling in school and this broke my heart. School is hard enough the way it is but on top of that to add a learning/mental disability….well, that just plain sucks. I spoke with Hayden about his grades and really tried to ingrain that he must try his very hardest and do the best he can do every day in school. Then I met with his teacher, Mrs. Oien to get a better grasp at what was going on. First, I must say, she is an awesome gal…full of life and truly loves teaching. She speaks so highly of Hayden and it’s obvious that he has captured a special place in her heart. We conversed about his struggles and about PDD and how it affects my son. We came up with some great ideas to help make school a little less challenging and I left feeling 100% better about the situation.
Hayden is very high functioning on the spectrum and most people would never know anything is going on with him. He has shown me over the years how caring and genuine of an individual he is and he warms my heart every single day. I am so proud of him and so proud to be his mom. He is constantly reminding me to enjoy the little things in life and he doesn’t leave my side whenever I am going through something upsetting. He amazes me…literally, I am in awe of my child. I am so blessed that this extraordinary little person is my son.
Although I feel like I am now babbling, this is something I could go on and on about but I’ll wrap it up….I share this story not to exploit my son or to put a public label on him, I share this in case there is a parent/grandparent/aunt/uncle out there who kinda, maybe, sorta thinks that there is just something slightly ‘off’ with their child. Trust your gut…ask questions. Perhaps it’s nothing, but maybe, just maybe there is something going on and the earlier you can help this child, the better.