Less than three weeks ago my beautiful, intelligent, thirteen year old baby girl was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Now, I know most of you must be wondering why she was diagnosed so late. I have no idea what I was thinking, honestly!
Let me back up. My daughter, for the sake of everything that is holy in middle school I will not use her real name because she might “literally” die. (If I said that to her she would most certainly correct me, by informing me, that one could not literally die from having their real name published or from embarrassment.) We will just pretend her name is Charisma; hence the title of the blog. Cari, I’ll call her for short, because to be sure I will forget how to spell charisma at some point during my life.
Anyway! Cari has always been weird. And I use the word weird, not to offend anyone, but because that’s what I always equated her “odd” or “quirky” behavior to. I’ve seen Autism, and my kid did not have it! I mean I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Child Development. I should have been the first person to notice that something was a bit off, but alas, I was tardy to the party. Cari is a great kid and has always seemed as if she was a miniature grown up. She uses large vocabulary words, always follows the rules and has never caused me any major problems.
There was this minor issue though, Cari was weird. Once we moved away from her small, tight knit group of friends (whom she’s known since she was 3, some since she was a year old); I started noticing some things that were a bit off. Wait, I lied. Her second grade teacher Ms. Bradshaw (and by no means is this a Sex in The City reference, that was actually her name and Carrie’s name from the show was spelled with an “ie” and two “R’s”. Plus it was short for Carrigan not Charisma) told me that Cari had a difficult time making friends and seemed a bit awkward. I blew this off as her not having any of her close friends in the classroom that year. I was not an idle parent though. I took what her teacher had to say to heart and got her into behavioral therapy right away. She had been familiar with therapy since she was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder-Inattentive type ( That’s the fancy schmancy way of saying she has ADD not ADHD, but for some reason the doctors lumped it all under one big umbrella), the year prior.
Come to think of it, her first grade teacher said she thought my daughter might be psychotic. That was her word, obviously not mine! She felt this way because my 7 year old first grader would draw faces on her fingers and get them to have conversations with each other. Well, obviously this lady had never been around anyone that was psychotic. I wish I could give her a swift kick to the rear. Cari used to say “Don’t you think it’s weird her name is Ms. Payne since she’s a pain?” That child makes me laugh I tell ya!
Again, I’m getting side tracked. So, the signs were there at an early age, but I did not see them. I figured her teachers have just never met an awesomely weird kid like mine. I mean she had friends at home, right? Well that doesn’t end her quirky nature. She’s a picker. She’s always picked and I didn’t see it as an issue. I’d just tell her to stop and she would, without throwing a fit or anything. And when I say she stopped, that means she stopped doing it for a whole five seconds until she forgot you told her not to do it. I know you are wondering what picking means. Well, picture your child holding his/her hands about two inches or less away from their eyeballs and concentrating intently on the small blonde hairs that are on their knuckles and picking said small blonde hairs out. One. At. A. Time. For hours! If she was not picking she was (and still does) slamming her knuckles on the palm of the opposite hand repeatedly. I don’t know why she did this and I didn’t see this as a problem. She was smart, sweet, good and respectful.
Eye contact, she has that. Her gaze lasts about 5-10 seconds before she looks at the floor, off to the side, over your head or anywhere but your face. Again, not a problem in my book. She just doesn’t like looking at people. I know, it doesn’t sound serious, and you my friend would be correct. All of these are things she can live with. So what, she’s a little weird and has a hard time conversing with peers or anyone for that matter without blurting something random out about animals. She can learn how to have a give and take conversation. She’s already learned how not to make herself stand out. She has a peer group that she hangs around in school and dance. She rarely speaks to them unless they ask her a direct question, but she’s in their presence, their circle. She sits quietly and picks her tiny blonde hair out of her long thin fingers while her friends chat about boys and update their Facebook statuses for the millionth time.
I have not by any means even covered what would begin to be the surface of my quirky child, but this is only the first entry. I am now at the stage of “What comes next?”. That was preceded by the “I must be a horrible mother to not know my child had this!” and the second stage “My child has what?” I’m curious to find out what the next stage is. Hopefully that stage is “Awesome-sauce!!! We got this!”
I can honestly say, I can be so silly about this because I have an awesome support system. I have the most fantastical daughter I could ever ask for, Great friends and family, and an AH-may-ZING husband, who support me through all of this as well as an ex-husband that does nothing but love the person she is. My goal with this blog is to help others who may be going through this thing alone wondering if anyone has been there. I want everyone to know I’ve been there,
and though I currently cannot see everything as sunshine and roses, Cari is still Cari and she will always be one of the best things that has ever happened to me!