I took my youngest son in for a Child Find screening the other day. This is the child whom I have long considered the most "typical" of my kids. Unlike the other two, he didn't have a language delay. Unlike my autistic son, he hasn't had any social delays. Unlike my oldest, he's isn't overly anxious and he is also not a weirdly model student.
Until this year. This year he started showing signs of obsessiveness. He's become more sensorily rigid. He has trouble with some speech sounds (which is, in itself, kind of typical) and he's become more rigid and resistant to transitions. In autism terms, he's become perseverative and slightly echolalic.
So I took him in to be screened. I showed up completely unprepared and when the psychologist asked me why we were there, I fumbled for words at first. But then I started to remember things. I remembered how he wore a stuffed duck head as a hat for a solid year. I remembered how he refused to wear anything but yellow t-shirts for a couple of years. I remembered all the things that has caused me to call him alternatively adorable and quirky and batshit crazy. In an affectionate way, of course. I think he—and his quirks—are adorable.
He passed all of the screenings individually, but put together, the team decided he needed more extensive evaluations for speech, OT, and educational testing. Cool. I'm all for evaluations. Especially free ones. I told the psychologist that I understood that her brief psych screening didn't indicate that his obsessiveness merited Child Find intervention (i.e., it doesn't affect him academically), but I wondered if her opinion was that I should continue psychological testing privately.
"Does he," I asked, "present similarly to other kids with OCD?" Because that was my initial concern.
"No," she told me. "Not OCD. More like PDD." Which is my autistic son's diagnosis.
You could have knocked me over with a feather because I have never looked at Quinn as a child with autism. Huh. Interesting. On the one hand, I don't see a lot of the behaviors in Quinn that make up autism. But on the other hand, at least I GET autism. I understand it. And honestly, I would much prefer some autistic perseveration than obsessive compulsive disorder.
I've been spending the time since thinking about my youngest and how he might fit on the spectrum. And I've come to the conclusion that, like most of us in my immediate family, he is a little "spectrum-y."
I understand that what this pscyhologist did is not a full workup. I get that maybe he does have OCD. Maybe he does have PDD. Maybe he has nothing and is just a weird, fun little boy. I don't know. But if he were indeed "spectrum-y"—and that could well be an official diagnosis for all I am concerned—it would make sense.
Because I see spectrum-y behaviors and traits in all three of my children, as well as in myself. This new possibility makes him more one of us. I await his full evaluation with interest. But no matter how it turns out, I am happy he is part of a spectrum-y family that will value his quirkiness and make him feel welcome, normal, and part of something.
Jean writes about her life and autism on her personal blog, Stimeyland. She runs an autism events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. She also writes a column called Autism Unexpected for the Washington Times Communities.