Well, 2son refused to come with me, as he has continued to refuse to leave the house this year, going to school for two sessions out of almost three weeks.
But I visited CAMHS with 3son and 4son to discuss where we are with 2son, and to give 3 and 4son a small opportunity to voice their concerns. We met with 2son’s specialist teacher, teach, and the family therapist who we’ll call thera.
Now they listened to 3 and 4sons but weren’t really interested. I am worried about how they are coping with having a big brother who hasn’t been to school for nigh on a year and who isn’t what he used to be. He’s moody, spends less time with them playing and is generally more difficult, some of which is about his age. He doesn’t come out of the house to play with them, or go out with them. Seeing Harry Potter at the cinema has been the only family excursion in a year that he has joined in on.
3son will start secondary school next year, at the same school (probably) where 2son is going, or not going. That worries me. They’re not the same and I know that, but still I worry. How the school has tried to deal, help and support 2son encourages me to send 3 and 4 there as well. I have had no problems with the school who have gone out of their way to be helpful.
Anyway, back to the meeting.
Teach has been brilliant. Her remit is to help 2son go back to school, not to deal with the underlying causes of 2son’s school refusal. She managed that last year, by talking to him about the various parts of school: journey, classes, playground, other children and all the various components of the school day to find out where the problems lay and to minimise them, by making alternative arrangements with the school or by teaching him coping strategies. This seemed to get him back on track until the school heating broke down and then it was almost the end of term and it fell apart a bit and he hasn’t got back into the routine this term.
So I walked in expecting to discuss strategies for coping with him and where we might go. Instead they suggested, on observations mostly made by teach, since thera has only met him once for 10 minutes, that he ticked a lot of the boxes for autism and we needed to get him assessed for autistic spectrum disorder, or ASD.
Blimey, I didn’t say. Nor did I say any of the other words running through my head. We talked about it a little bit and I went away with a small amount of literature to digest and a growing list of questions. We went home and I discussed it with 2son.
There are several series of questions to fill in about 2son’s behaviour. Some of them are definitely him; some of them apply to him and any other boy his sort of age; many are not him at all and some depend on what they mean.
He behaves differently at CAMHS when he sees teach than he does at home. Not surprising really. She cited his need to take things literally with her and being pedantic about word use. He doesn’t do that with me. Is his face less responsive with her because he’s in a interview uncomfortable place with her or because of something deeper? He talks to her with less intonation in his voice, but again, he’s not in a relaxed situation with her.
Many of the initial characteristics of ASD are not 2son. He doesn’t lack compassion, or the ability to communicate or play games with other children. He is less creative than his brothers but he prefers fiction to non-fiction. He socialises with other children, but he’s a bit choosy. Is that because he is autistic, or shy?
Maybe he has a very mild degree of autism. After all, that is why it has the word spectrum in it; people may suffer mildly or severely. Maybe he doesn’t.
Do I want him diagnosed as ASD? Would it help? Would it pigeonhole him and leave other avenues unturned? The fact that he has had no counselling; that there has been no attempt to talk to him about what makes him unhappy other than with direct reference to school unsettles me. What’s the difference between mild autism and just not being a ‘normal’ child, i.e. not having anything biological or physiologically wrong, but just being a bit different?
I have a lot of reading and research to do, and a list of questions to write as well as several lists to fill in. Out of the 3 areas of autism, I’m in agreement with his problems in behaviour with reference to not liking change, but not really with socialising and communication, so that’s only one out of three.
I’m bewildered, surprised and confused. And while I’m waiting for an assessment, and diagnosis, and then the long waiting list for treatment, what do I do?