Hello! I’m Carla Crim, the Scientific Seamstress. My husband and I are parents to the most awesome (almost) 9 year old kid. He is a science wiz, Cub Scout, 4H-er, and Futurama superfan.
A few months ago, he was diagnosed with high functioning autism, ADHD, and anxiety. Even though I have good friends with kids on the spectrum, and have a background in biology, I really didn’t feel like I was equipped to deal with the diagnosis. I checked out books, read scientific articles, visited websites, etc., but by far the most helpful and uplifting advice has come from other parents. Through Facebook, online forums, and blogs, I’ve “met” so many moms and dads with exceptional kids. Every story is different, as evidenced by the diverse and wonderful children featured in this series. Thanks, Taya, for giving me the opportunity to share our story.
Louis was actually a very easy baby. Some of it was his disposition, but we also had a really peaceful home setting. I was able to stay home with him, and adapted to his routine right away. He nursed and slept when he wanted, and if something made him uncomfortable, I immediately fixed it. I spent a lot of time on the computer, feeding him and interacting with other moms on online forums. In fact, the first seeds of concern were planted when I’d read about other babies the same age meeting developmental milestones. He was perfectly happy and interactive, but wasn’t even attempting to roll over or sit up. The doctor did not seem worried, so I tried to put it out of my mind.
When he was about a year old, we moved out of state. I was so relieved when he crawled at 12 months, and even more relieved when he finally walked at 18 months. Again, the new doctor did not seem concerned about the delays, especially since he was doing fine socially and his fine motor skills were good. Just like in the old house, I structured my days around his schedule. I had a small business making and selling doll clothes, but as he got mobile, it became harder to focus on intricate projects. I made the switch to patternmaking because it allowed me to spend more time on the computer, nursing him or keeping a close watch while he played. Like any toddler, he had his meltdowns, sensitivities, and could be just plain recalcitrant. So, I just went with the flow and let him be the boss…path of least resistance.
When he was about 2, I noticed that he would shut down in loud or hectic settings. Most of the time, he was in his stroller or in a backpack, so it really wasn’t a problem. On the rare occasions that I needed him to walk and hurry along, though, it was very upsetting for both of us. Train and air travel was very difficult, especially if I was on my own with him and schlepping bags and carseats. Otherwise, he was never what either one of us would call problematic. He did exhibit some “quirky” behaviors which I now know are textbook…lining up cars, watching the same programs over and over and over and over, etc. He wasn’t that into playing with other kids, either. He was great with adults, but didn’t seem to “get” other kids. We attributed this to him being the only little one in the house.
Like any mom, I was so nervous about sending him off to kindergarten. Thankfully, he had an absolutely wonderful teacher, and his first year of school was very happy. He didn’t seem to have much interest in ABCs and 123s, but he was still learning and getting on just fine. The real issues came to light in 1st grade. He’d come home sad, wouldn’t talk about his day, and wanted nothing to do with homework. His teacher pulled me aside at open house, and said we needed to have a conference in advance of the scheduled conference day. At that meeting she described a little boy that just could not be my son – miserable, uncooperative, and lonely. I was heartbroken. We agreed that he should be evaluated by the speech and occupational therapists. He was tested, but no real problems were found and therapy was not recommended.
I tried to talk to him, and all I could get out of him was that the other kids were chattering too much, and he just couldn’t think. My husband and I tried to work with him on his learning, but it was so painful. I just wanted him to be happy, so I didn’t push too much. Part of me felt like a bad parent, but I just couldn’t take the tears. Things greatly improved when he started switching classes for math. The teacher was very sweet, but also had a good handle on discipline (no chatter). He was also with a different group of kids and loved the subject. We were so thrilled to get papers with smiley faces and stars for a change!
Unfortunately, by the close of the year, he was still having problems in his main classroom. He was tested for ADHD (which just meant surveys by parents and teachers), and the results indicated that he might have an issue. I talked to his doctor, and we agreed to “wait and see” if he needed medication, etc. We moved (again) early in 2nd grade, and his new teacher immediately picked up on handwriting issues, and was able to get him right into occupational therapy. While his grades were improving, his social skills and attitude were not. It was just like the previous year – the kid at school was totally different from the kid at home. Even though he was clearly very bright, he just wasn’t doing well. His new doctor had him evaluated for ADHD, and got the same results. He referred us to a Developmental Pediatrician.
It took many months to get an appointment, but they worked us in just before the close of 2nd grade. Most of his evaluation consisted of just talking to the doctor, and you guessed it…more surveys! At the end of that appointment, she said that his formal speech patterns and other behaviors were very suggestive of Asperger’s (which she explained is now categorized as high functioning autism). He is clearly bright, as evidenced by his vocabulary and scientific pursuits. The ADHD and anxiety are probably a result of the autism, and the more I learn, both are very likely related to SPD.