Thursday, April 15, 2010


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.

He's just...typical.

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.


  1. My eldest is the most "autistic" of the 2. And he's the most "normal". When he was re-dx'd (started at mild PDD and then got a wishy washy dx which was useless at school) the Dev Ped told me his speech delay was "normal" not "autistic" and he would grow out of it. And at 10 has. She told me he couldn't be PDD b/c he was "normal" verbal.
    Therefore he was Non-verbal learning disorder with a speech language delay. NLD doesn't have a S/L delay in the dx. But now at 10, he definately has mild NLD. NLD usually isn't picked up until they are about 7 to 9 yrs of age... having a PDD dx at 2.5 has allowed us to get a grip on the OCD and social/behavioural issues early.

  2. Remember - no 2 kids on the spectrum will present the same way though. Even in sibblings. And whether he is on the spectrum or not, as you know, evaluations and early intervention can be such a good thing - whether it is for a small issue or something that lands him a dx of something too.

  3. Spectrum-y...I think that is a great way to describe it.
    Quinn is a very lucky little boy to have a mom who "gets" him.

  4. I'm so glad to hear that someone else uses the term "spectrum-y." (And I'm not surprised in the least it is you!) We're all spectrum-y in the Channel household, and the more we learn about autism, the more we see little bits and pieces of it in all of us, diagnosed or not.
    I think it is way, way cool that you are talking about this and sharing your evaluation adventure. So many parents travel down this road and feel so alone. Reading about someone who knows the road well and now writes about another walk down that road provides such a unique and important perspective for the new "road walkers."

  5. Thanks for sharing your story. Wish you and your children the best.
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