Friday, September 7, 2007

Friday Five

I really am sorry for not posting yesterday, but it was kind of a rough day. I had every intention of telling you about my cat, the lumberjack, who loves to scale door frames with her massive claws and Popeye-like leg muscles. But I just couldn't. I got to talk to an Effingham County school psychologist yesterday morning. She's been called in to help with my child. Why?

They, and the pediatrician, believe my daughter has Asperger Syndrome.

For those not in the know, Asperbger Syndrome is an autism spectrum disorder, and there's a fairly accurate Wiki write-up here.

Some of the characteristics of Asperger's include inability to grasp social skills, avoiding eye contact, fixation on a specific field or group of things, and a habit of using repetitive motion or language. TFYO meets all of these criteria. Fortunately, she wants to be social, so the army of therapists that are about to become part of our lives have something to work with. We're also told that TFYO is incredibly intelligent, even more than your run-of-the-mill Asperger's patient. The other good thing is that she's being diagnosed early. Many children aren't diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome until they are ten or eleven. Which means early intervention can help TFYO learn coping strategies in social situations.

But she's having trouble dealing with the other kids at school. She has no concept of personal space, and she has a tough time starting conversations, and she really doesn't like looking people in the eye. She also has this hitting thing lately, where when she can 't figure out how to join a group, she just smacks someone on the shoulder.

You probably know an adult with Asperger Syndrome. There are a lot of them working in technology fields, as scientist, or as musicians, or sometimes even professors. Dan Akroyd recently said he was diagnosed with Asperger's as an adult. They probably seem a little quirky, they're a little obsessed with sci-fi, or trains, or...well, any one thing. They have friends, but not large groups of them. And you'll see them at parties, but often in the corner talking to only one or two people. They're normal, but not...quite.

Looking back on my own childhood through the lens of Asperger Syndrome, it makes a lot more sense to me now. My inability to blend in, my obsession with learning, and not always picking up on social cues. I always just thought I was a nerd. Turns out, there was a label for it.

So, today's Friday Five is a bit of a rip off of my new friend Joy T. over at Spot of T. She did a "Thankful Thirteen" last Thursday. So, today's Friday Five is...

Five Things I am Thankful For

1. I am thankful for my child.

Even though she's been given a label that could hold her back, she's bright and funny and smart. And she's mine. I'm thankful I have her to worry about, when so many other people don't have kids or can't have kids.

2. I'm thankful for my husband.

No doubt, like all couples, we've had our ups and downs. But he's always been an awesome father, and he's always tried to be the best husband he can be.

3. I'm thankful for my home.

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. That's nobody's fault, it's just the way it was. I was never so grateful as when I got to own my own home this year. I can paint the walls chartreuse if I want...and TFYO's room is proof of that. I now have a sense of home and belonging.

4. I'm thankful for all the great people I've met so far blogging.

Every single last one of you. Rotten Correspondent, Jo Beaufoix, Mya, WillowTree, Dumdad, JRH, My Two Cents, Bellevelma are the old(er) timers. Mike, Diana, and a few others are recent visitors. And you're all awesome. It's good to know there's a place I can come to regain my sanity, and read about all of your lives.

5. I'm thankful I made that fateful decision to move to Alabama in 1996.

It seemed like madness at the time, and it almost killed me. But if I hadn't, I wouldn't have met Ray, I wouldn't have found my career, and I wouldn't have TFYO. I'm not sure where I would be now, but it can't be better than what I've got.

Okay, there it is. The incredibly maudlin Friday Five. Hopefully you'll forgive the philosophical meanderings, but I just thought it might be nice, on a crappy day, to remember what I'm thankful for. Okay, it's y'alls turn.

What are you thankful for?


my two cents said...

Jen, I am glad you can open up to your blog friends at such a tough time. If you see yourself in TYFO, then all I can say is, if she grows up to be like you, she'll be a GREAT person, and very lucky, too.

I am thankful for the friends I have, those who are part of my daily life in person, and on-line. I am thankful for those who have remained friends over many miles, whether it has been me who has move, or them.

I am thankful for my family--I love them.

I am thankful that I went to have Easter breakfast with my friend in 1986, because that is where I met my husband, and she is now my sister-in-law.

I am thankful for the ocean.

I am thankful for art.

Big hugs to you, and Ray, and TYFO, and the new baby.

Jillian said...

I don't see it as a label - a potential diagnosis, perhaps. It's not going to hold her back at all. No worries about that. TFYO is a beautiful, UBER-intelligent child, and the fact that she will no doubt grow up to be at least 6 feet, be thin with blonde hair, blue eyes, rosy cheeks and ruby red lips makes me slightly hate her. But Jen and I have had this discussion several times. :)

Five things I'm thankful for.

1) I'm thankful for my friends. I too, like Jen, think that there might be some slight tendancies on my part with this, but hey. I think I turned out - for the most part - ok. I don't have a LOT of friends, but the ones I have are the greatest in the world. One of those I've known for over half my life. (Dear God, no!) My friends are the best, and I know that if possible they'd do whatever they could for me, as it would absolutely be in return. *big hug for Jen - not too hard though - don't want to squish the baby!~*

2) I'm thankful for my animals. I have a lot. 6 cats, one dog (who's half the size of my smallest cat and she rules the roost), a guinea pig and some fish - which have gone to the great toilet bowl in the sky, so I'll have to replace them. There's nothing better at the end of the day when your day has stunk like heck, to come home and as soon as you step out of your car, all you hear is your dog barking. All she wants is to be kissed, cuddled, and let out for a wizz. That's unconditional love, right there. The cats really couldn't care less... they're just happy I take the dog for a walk so they can have a few moment's peace! :)

3) Though I don't have a husband or a boyfriend, I'm thankful for my friend, who happens to be a boy - his name is Mark. He's a wonderful guy, always there to lend an ear when I need an ear, an all 'round good guy.

4) I'm thankful that I have a roof over my head (though the contents under that roof are a mess right now!), food on my table (which is covered with stuff right now so it's on the couch eating for me), and a job that helps me pay the bills. Those I all lump together, 'cause I can't have the first two without the last one.

5) I'm thankful for my Dad. He's not with me anymore - Dad passed away last year. But I'm thankful for him. Through his very strict and hard-core policeman discipline, he taught me the value of doing what you said you would do - of sticking to your guns, of seeing something through right to the very end. It's a lesson that I didn't know I would need, but I'm sure glad I learned it. Thanks, Dad.

Those are my 5.

But then again, there's a 6th.

6) I'm thankful for Jen's hubby and TFYO - they always make my visits to Georgia or wherever they may have been at the time so memorable. The hubby and his baseball trivia (which I find funny peculiar and funny amusing at the same time) and TFYO who never ceases to amaze me with her wit, her sass, and of course, the soul patch. (I'll let Jen explain that one!)

The Rotten Correspondent said...

jen - I have to admit that I'm a little at a loss for words right now. Not because I think you've been given a hurdle you can't handle, but because I just want to hug you instead of spewing out
words. That's the down side of this fabulous blog business - possibly the only one.

Now about the Aspbergers...have they made a final diagnosis or does this mean you'll start testing? I know quite a few people with this and you're right - they're the ones in the corner with their own social group, perfectly happy with their lives. If this is what TFYO has you're getting such a huge jump on things because, hello...she's FOUR.

I don't talk about this a hell of a lot but Sasquatch was diagnosed with OCD a few years ago, and even though I don't completely agree with the diagnosis, there is too much there to ignore. They're our kids. Period. You just have to take it as it comes.

I'm sorry about the timing though. Seems like you're plate is pretty full at the moment.

Okay, on to the Friday Five.
I am thankful for
1. My family. Always.
2. The fact that I actually own a house. And, like you, I can paint walls red.
3. That I somehow found the guts to go to nursing school at 39. I'd wanted it my whole life. Felt nice to get it.
4. My dogs. They add a dimension to my life that is irreplaceable.
5. My blog. And my blog mates. You guys make it worth getting up in the morning.

I feel awash in thankfulness...

my two cents said...

Jen, there is a really great essay over at Bellevelma's that you might like to read.

Willowtree said...

"You probably know an adult with Asperger Syndrome."

Ah, hello...IT professional who refuses to look people in the eye, living in the middle of nowhere because he can't handle people. Have you even read my blog!

Sorry, what was that about lacking in social skills and tact?

Robot Lord of Tokyo said...

Not to make light of the situation, but, I sometimes believe that there are too many labels that we're willing to apply to kids.. My step-son has Aspergers as well.. But, he's a normal, grumpy 14 year old.. And when I look at him, I can't help but think that if we were as PC 15 years ago as we are today, that I too would have been labeled as having Aspergers.

So, I guess I'm trying to say, "don't sweat it.". Docs these days want to pigeonhole anyone who doesn't fit into their cookie cutter version of "normal".

my two cents said...

"You know this, but it will somehow be okay. Not necessarily great, or easy, but okay."

I pulled this from your comment over at RC's to say that if you are thinking this clearly at 2:30 a.m., you are are going to be more than okay. You are amazing. TYFO is still the same great kid today that she was last week when she was reading to a group of her friends at school. You are completely right, it isn't going to be easy, but it is going to be okay--and that is because of who you are.

Tracey said...

This is absolutely none of my business, I know, but...I kind of agree there with the rotten correspondent...she is four. I don't know many socially mature four year olds.

So I would keep that mind open and seek other qualified opinions that you trust. She could just be finding her way through a whole lot of changes. I've been through a toddler mystery health crisis, and I know from painful experience that the first, second or tenth diagnosis isn't always the right one. As a mother, you'll know.

And belated congratulations! Take care...

bellevelma said...

Urgh... the computer ate my comment.

My two cents said it best - TYFO is the same wonderful little girl she's always been!

Everything will be alright, too.

Have to say I find ages 4 and 5 to be awfully young for diagnosing stuff like that AND I especially dislike when the suggestion comes from a teacher first. As if a child isn't exactly the same as every other kid then there must be a problem.

Know that I am thinking of you - good thought only, of course - and I bet TYFO's going to be just fine.

Jennifer said...

Hey, I just found out about my 4 year old 2 months ago. Labels aren't a bad thing and an AS label is better than the other ASDs because of the high functioning aspect of AS. Because of this label my son is protected by law even at age 4 to get the education that he deserves and to learn how he can learn best. Another mom of an AS son who is 10yo said to me, "yes, at 4 it may all be age appropriate, but they don't grow out of it." With the therapy and special education that my son will be receiving, he will learn strategies so that by the time he is in 1st grade we hope he will be mainstreamed. I personally think that my son is a very normal 4 year old. Just his meltdowns are triggered by very autistic sources. He may never grow out of those things, but he has the opportunity to learn at a very early age how to cope and assimilate before he gets a terrible label like "bully" which is kind of my situation right now and I'm looking forward to getting him back into therapy. See my post here:

Best wishes

Saphyre Rose said...

Shouldn't they test before making a grandiose blanket decision like that?
I mean the symptoms you described could be the symptoms of a perfectly normal toddler going through a spate of changes. How socially mature do they want her? Paris Hilton?! Can't she just be a little kid without someone with a ruler coming along to say she doesn't measure up? Measure up to WHO? Their version of what is normal? Bollocks!

Mozart was afflicted with what was called a "life crushing shyness" and so many childhood diseases that his father thought he would never be "normal". Leopold Mozart was quite shocked when his son's talent surpassed his own and Wolfgang became the favorite of Emperor Joseph II of Vienna.

Please, please please! Remember you live in the south healthcare and snap judgments are all most healthcare professionals are good for down here.
Make sure you get more than one opinion on both the diagnosis and the possible treatment.
Take no one's word for anything and if well meaning, "Bless your heart" type Georgia peaches show up to judge or label, call me. I haven't been given anyone a proper ass chewing for a while now. I am ready!

Things I am thankful for....
1. Always first, my husband, soul mate, lover and best friend, Lee. He makes my life worth living.

2. I am thankful for the best group of sister witches any Sacred Circle could possibly have. My belief the Mother Goddess has kept me sane through the insanity that is my life at the moment!

3. Dr Sheahan in Atlanta GA is my new doctor and life saver

4. I am thankful for the great friends I have made on the blogosphere.

5. I am thankful for my education and my desire to keep learning.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Jen, I just read this post and there is so much I want to say but I don't know how to say it so I'll take a deep breath and do it.

I have worked for 4 years with 4 amazing kids who have Aspergers syndrome, 1 boy and 3 girls, all young teenagers.

I have loved every minute I have spent with these articulate, intelligent and charming young people, including the battles, the upsets and the joys.

They are all different, all full of character, and they are doing ok.

I'm so glad TFYO has had such an early diagnosis as this will help her to learn how to cope with the world around her and make it work for her.

This is an amazing book by Luke Jackson, a young British boy who has Aspergers syndrome. He is an inspiration and the book is funny, informative and completely full of hope.

He made a documentary with his family about 4 years ago which I used to have a copy of, and if you'd like it I will send it to you when you're ready.

In the meantime, love you loads and keep your chin up.

The four year old is still the beautiful, funny, articulate little monkey she was before.

Mya said...


Sorry this is so late - I've just caught up on all your news.

Don't forget that TFYO is still very new to all the socialisation side of things (she's still an only child at the moment.)She's still learning the rules (aren't we all!) My little Sprog can be incredibly shy. He finds it hard to break in to new social groups - he is an only child. But since he has been at school and mixing more with other children, he has gradually relaxed and gained in confidence. He too has obsessive rituals that he'll go over and over. Most toddlers display this kind of behaviour at some time - it makes them feel safe. I had to smile when you mentioned that she uses hitting to break into a social group - this is exactly what my nephew used to do (he was an only child too).As a four year old he used to take a flying leap and karate kick his way into other conversations! He's just completed a scholarship at the same school Prince Charles went to and is now being sponsored through university too. I tend to agree with other comments that urge not to label too readily - I understand it's easier to handle if you think you know what you're dealing with. But hey, with parents like you and Ray she's not going to be a run of the mill child, is she? I mean that in the nicest possible way. She's quirky - so what? We've all got quirks. I'd choose quirky over bog standard or dull any day of the week. Keep smiling, keep positive and keep calm.

Mya x

JRH said...

Wow, I'm so late showing up here that everyone else has said it all, but I wanted you to know that you guys are in my prayers. Sounds to me like you've got a wonderful, interesting little lovely person there in TYFO, no matter what.

Joy T. said...

Catching up on blogs and see my name! :o) I have to delve into this more because I swear the things you wrote are me to a tee. Although that could be just the hypochondriac coming out in me. It sounds like you're handling the news well and your daughter will get the help and support she needs. There's no words to comfort someone when they hear news like this, but you certainly have lots of support in the blog world :o)