In my first article for Dadomatic I talked about recognizing the signs of autism, and in my second I talked about dealing with the diagnosis. Â Well, this is my third in, shall we call it a trilogy (sounds both pretentious and cool, not unlike myself….) about the disorder my son has, autism.
We are very lucky. Â Our son Jon, 7, has autism, but he also goes to what seems to be the best prepared school in our city for dealing with special needs kids. Â Jon has a full time educational assistant (EA) in the classroom and he is doing well. Â
Early on though we had to fight some. Â We wanted Jon to get speech therapy (which he now gets, and his therapist is excellent) and we ran in to quite the road block, or series thereof. Â We had to get on waiting lists, we had to get an official diagnosis, and we had to navigate the system. Â The problem here is that we were not only dealing with aÂ bureaucraticÂ nightmare, we also were dealing with the fact that we had a special needs kid. Â My wife basically came up with a plan of attack that involved not only getting him on the autism “list” but also on the list of kids that just needed speech therapy. Â This seemed to work. Â She has a history degree, which might explain this classic pincer movement which is so effective in battle, but I digress… Â It seems we put enough pressure on the system to get Jon his therapy. Â
More recently, anÂ acquaintanceÂ of mine needed to get a diagnosis for her child. Â It seemed pretty clear to her and me that her son was on the autismÂ spectrum. Â Indeed, he has all of the classic signs of Asperger’s Syndrome. Â At issue was the fact that she had moved from one province to another and did not have our local health insurance, and still had insurance from the province she recently moved from. Â The functionaries at the local office of OHIP (our provincial insurer) came up with a reason that I need not go in to, to tell her she could not yet get insurance and had to stick with her out of province insurance. Â The problem here is that to get help she needed for her son, she had to have an OHIP card for him. Â She was understandably distraught. Â I advised her to call ourÂ MPP and explain the story. Â Well, the MPP intervened and now her son will get the help he needs.
These stories lead to a few bits of advice, which the reader can take or leave:
1. Ask for help from those with experience. Â You can find people that have gone through the same thing as you are now, they are often happy to help, and know a lot of shortcuts. Â How do you find such people? Â Through local support groups.
2. Social workers can help too. Â Most of us think social workers are there to help people that are not like us, you know, umm, people likeÂ Cletus on the Simpsons. Â They do help folks like that, but they are also trained in how to navigate complexÂ bureaucracies. Â We ended up getting some quite useful help from a social worker.
3. If you have a partner, work with him or her, and listen to all ideas. Â I admit I was not too keen on my wife’s idea about putting Jon on different lists to get therapy, but it is hard to argue with success. Â You would think that after 20 years I would have learned to listen more closely to her…
4. Do not take “no” for an answer. Â This is your kid, do not believe it when you are told “it can’t be done”, just find another way.
In closing, I learned some of these things through experience, and some of them by watching my parents advocate for me when I was young (I am legally blind). Â In 1970 I started school and the principal asked my Mom “don’t you think your son should be in a special school?” Â She replied with an emphatic “NO” which ended the discussion. Â Thanks Mom and Dad.
Dr. Dave Brodbeck is a professor of psychology at Algoma University in Sault Ste. Marie ON. Â He is married, and has two great kids. Â Dave is the host of Why? The Science Show For Kids, thunderbird six, and co hosts Broca’s Area and Tangential Convergence. He can be found on twitter, usually making sarcastic comments.