Wednesday, December 1, 2010
Is It Really Autism?
Auditory Processing Disorder Instead?
Not long ago, in my neighborhood I met a charming four-year-old boy and his mom. He walked up to me and happily chatted for a moment before I asked him his name. Although still happy and still chatty, he simply could not answer the question. He tried several times, but his name just would not roll off his tongue.
His mother finally told me her son's name was William. And she said, "We were just at the pediatrician's the other day, and William was diagnosed with autism." Her eyes welled up with tears as she explained, "He has some social issues and he's not really potty trained. The doctor said he's functioning on a two-year-old level."
Well, I have to say, I didn't see that. This child was all over his mom, hugging her, laughing with her, asking her to play. He asked me to play. He was busy looking at some frogs in the grass. And when he wanted to ride his skateboard, he asked, "Mom, I ride orange?" The real problem seemed to be that he couldn't say proper nouns. Other than that, I saw no other "issues" as this doctor described. Instead of autism, it just looked like this child perhaps had an auditory processing disorder and nothing more.
Another disorder that produces symptoms of autism is Fragile X Syndrome, which is a genetic disease. Some experts say that at least 7% of children diagnosed with autism actually have Fragile X, while other experts claim that the percentage is as high as 30%. While this might sound like bad news, scientists are diligently working on a cure for this syndrome and expect to find one in the next five to seven years. They firmly believe that by curing this disease the symptoms of autism will disappear in children afflicted by Fragile X.
Autism awareness is important. However, there's an expression I keep hearing that I think applies in this case. "When all you have is a hammer, everything in the world looks like a nail." I'm starting to think that autism is the hammer right now. Just because a cluster of symptoms may look like autism on the surface doesn't really mean it is. I think people have a greater responsibility than they realize to not rush to judgment when they are trying to either make or obtain a diagnosis.
Get A Proper Evaluation
In my neighbor's case, by the way, her son was never professionally evaluated. Her pediatrician made the diagnosis on a routine visit that lasted probably no more than fifteen minutes. Still, because this man was a doctor, William's mother believed his opinion without any further consideration. This is unacceptable and could mean a lifetime of sorrow for her little boy when in fact, speech therapy may be all he needs to turn things around.
Labels Can Be Damning
Labels can make a person but more often they break them instead. Do all that you can to make sure the latter doesn't happen to your child or loved one. I guarantee you that a proper diagnosis will make all the difference in the world.