Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Changing while staying the same

I can tell from the scattered feeling in my brain that this will not be the post I really want to write, but right now I need to share some of the thinking I've been doing on autism. My thoughts are mostly unfocused, darting around to different aspects, but it has all been marinating for weeks now.

Even before facing the "a-word," when it was just a question of sensory issues, I debated how much therapy I wanted for Scooter. There was a part of me that worried such interventions would change his essence, take away the quirks and qualities that make Scooter so Scooterish. But I couldn't come up with a good reason not to send him to occupational therapy for gross and fine motor skills (plus some speech therapy for his pitch).

He has now been going to OT for almost three months, and I have been amazed at the changes. While he is still clumsy, he can execute a two-footed jump, walk along a balance beam, coordinate jumping with catching on the trampoline. He's starting to get a better sense of motor planning and how to monitor his movements. After months of a drawing and art strike (I think because it was so hard for him), he is learning to write letters and clamors to use scissors. And although some of this is only anecdotally connected to the OT, we have also noticed a concurrent improvement in his speech and his social skills. Some of this is certainly due to his wonderful teachers at daycare, but I think this is also a result of his improved confidence and increased neural connections.

But the most important thing is that he's still Scooter. If anything, even more Scooterish than before. See, for both Trillian and me, there has generally been a disconnect between the little boy we see at home and the one most other people think they know. At home he is mostly happy, creative, engaged, and chatty. Sure he had meltdowns and trouble with his speech, but he generally calmed down more quickly and could usually help us figure out what he wanted to communicate. In public (and in school, to some extent), the meltdowns were more frequent and more difficult to handle; new situations were often too overwhelming and took a long time to settle into. Now, we're starting to see a bit more overlap between public and private. At school he still has his meltdowns, but his teachers tell me that he can usually be talked out of them and he knows when he needs to step away from what's upsetting him--not perfectly, of course, but it's the start of learning to cope with the world around him while still acknowledging his needs.

After the MCHAT last month, I clung to something Trillian had told me the provincial OT had said to her: after six to nine months, of OT Scooter's issues might clear themselves up enough he wouldn't even be considered for further screening. We'll make the problem disappear, I told myself. I was willing it away. Now I've come to a point where that's no longer a goal; in fact, I hope that he doesn't improve so much that we have professionals again telling us that he's not bad enough off to require official intervention (I also don't expect to see this sort of miraculous change). Rather, I look forward to more OT and other therapies and the idea that Scooter will continue to learn how to cope and adjust without losing himself.

I don't think that this is all he will ever have to do, that there won't be continual challenges and frustrations and obstacles, that we've already figured out the combination of what exactly will work for him. I am at least encouraged that there are changes, but that Scooter is not changed.


bubandpie said...

Yes. Exactly. What I want for Bub is STRATEGIES - I want to work with people who can help him develop coping mechanisms and ways to navigate the things that will be difficult for him to navigate on his own. I don't want 40 hours a week of intensive therapy, but I don't want a pat on the head either.

crazymumma said...

A better Scooter, the Scooter who was always there, just needed a little help shining out.

He is certainly blessed to have you two. Your faith in who he is is a beautiful thing.

Lisa b said...

I'm glad to hear the OT is working in the way you want it to. I have heard this from enough parents that I am convinced of the role it can play in helping our kids be the best they can be.

Mouse said...

B&P--One of the particularly helpful things with our OT clinic was that they were the first people to say, "You're right, Scooter has some problems." They didn't dismiss our concerns, nor did they make us feel like we'd failed him. Instead, they gave us a sense of, "We (the therapists and his parents) can get Scooter from point A to B by breaking things down into small, manageable steps." It's definitely about finding the right people; this clinic was pretty much dumb luck for us, but it has been great.

Mad Hatter said...

What a relief it is reading this post. I read so many post by bloggers whose kinds are not getting the interventions they need or if they do the interventions haven't been adequate. I love that Scooter's supportive environment at home, at day care, and at OT is really making a positive difference.

cinnamon gurl said...

That's so encouraging!