Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Ryan!

Ryan is five years old today… I couldn’t let his special day go by without writing about him.  Ryan is a fascinating little fellow.  I’m certain he would have a lot to say, if only he could.  

Birthdays are milestones and at his age children have usually become interesting little people on their way to starting kindergarten.  When I look at the list of developmental milestones the typical child has reached by his or her 5th birthday, it reminds me how far Ryan has to go. 

For example, yesterday was Christmas. The typical five year-old can hardly sleep because Santa is coming. They are on their best behavior because “HE knows if you’ve been bad or good”.  Ryan can point to Santa in a book, but he was fairly oblivious to most of the festivities.  However, he did show a little interest in his presents—he did open two of them, at least.  The rest are under the tree, still wrapped. This was the first year he opened anything, though so we were excited. 

For the first time, Ryan interested in a present!!

The Centers for Disease Control lists developmental milestones in four categories: Social and Emotional; Language/Communication; Cognitive; and Movement/Physical Development.  I looked at what children can typically do in each category by their 5th birthday and Ryan is far behind in every category except for physical development, where he would almost be typical.

Cognitively, he is somewhat behind, mostly because he is unable to write anything other than a scribble when asked to draw a circle.  He does know his shapes and colors, most of his letters, and can count to 15.  Although he learns slower and through an almost ridiculous amount of repetition, he is learning.

But Social and Emotional, and Language/Communication categories are where he is severely delayed—these are the deficits that directly correlate to his autism.  Socially and Emotionally, Ryan should want to “please friends…be like friends” at this age.  Ryan doesn’t have friends, and shows little to no interest in other children unless they are holding a toy he wants. 

Language/Communication would probably earn an even lower score.  He is severely apraxic, so speech is very difficult for him…forget about being able to “use future tense” or “tell a simple story using full sentences”.  Much of his therapy has focused on teaching him the need to communicate.

Too often parents ignore the signs of autism, thinking—hoping, their child is just a late bloomer.  They assume their pediatrician would tell them if something was amiss, not stopping to realize the doctor usually sees the child for 10 or 15 minutes a few times a year, and under stressful circumstances.  Often someone outside the immediate family who spends some time with the child will notice the child is not developing typically, but is afraid to say anything for fear of offending the parents.

Valuable time is lost while parents are in denial—and time is of the essence in getting treatment.  The younger therapy is started, the better the outcome.  If you suspect a child in your life is delayed, or may have autism, please check out the milestones list on the CDC website at: . And to steal a line from the Department of Homeland Security’s terrorism program, if you see something, say something.  

While it was difficult to initially accept Ryan’s autism, in my case, other people were in denial for me…perhaps some still are.  I often hear Ryan just needs to play with other kids more often, and that he doesn’t “look autistic”, as if he should look a certain way.  Someone even said, “Well, his eyes aren’t too far apart and I read where you can tell if a kid is autistic by that”.  I should have saved that one for an “Insensitive Things People Say post”, I suppose. 

But I digress…developmental milestones aside, Ryan is a perfect kid, an amazing kid, a joy.  He’s happy and sunny almost all the time, despite all the challenges he faces.  He is loveable and gives the best hugs and kisses.  He is my angel. 

A happy boy!

Today I celebrate Ryan and his accomplishments. Tonight we will sing "Happy Birthday" and will have GF/CF/SF egg-free--everything-free cupcakes...I’m so thankful he’s a part of my life, autism and all. 

Happy 5th Birthday, Ryan!!

No comments:

Post a Comment