I will never forget Monday, October 15th, 2018 – My son’s long awaited Autism Evaluation at a LifeScape center in Sioux Falls, SD. I will never forget because this day made everything “official” and really “real”. I truly didn’t hear much I didn’t already know in my heart, but it’s still different to hear it come out of the mouths of medical professionals highly trained in the field.

THE DIAGNOSIS

  • Nonverbal moderate to severe autism spectrum disorder level 2.
  • Sensory Processing Disorder.

NONVERBAL:

Not involving or using words or speech.

WHAT IS AUTISM ?

Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that impacts the development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communications skills, and learning. Autism is a part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

LEVEL 2:

The DSM-5 notes those with level 2 autism require substantial support. The symptoms associated with this level include a more severe lack of both verbal and nonverbal communication skills. This often makes daily activities difficult.

Common Level 2 Symptoms:

  • difficulty coping with change to routine or surroundings
  • significant lack of verbal and nonverbal communication skills
  • behavior issues severe enough to be obvious to the casual observer
  • unusual or reduced response to social cues, communication, or interactions
  • trouble adapting to change
  • communication using overly simple sentences
  • narrow, specific interests

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SENSORY PROCESSING DISORDER

SPD is a dysfunction in the way the nervous system receives messages from the sensory system, and turns them into motor or behavioral responses. Misinterpretation of everyday sensory information like touch, smell, taste, and movement are indications of sensory processing disorder. Research shows that as many as 1 in 6 children experiences sensory symptoms signification enough to affect aspects of everyday activities such as bathing, dressing, eating, playing, and learning.

sensory-processing-disorder-11-638Signs-of-Sensory-Integration-Disorder-

PLAN

It’s a lot to take in…A LOT. I absolutely adored the team that did the evaluation. The team consisted of a psychologist, a speech/language pathologist, an occupational therapist, a graduate student, and a high school student. They were so knowledgeable and such kind and fun people. After the actual evaluation, we sat at a big table with everyone present and each specialist took the time to explain their findings and their thoughts on diagnosis. My husband and I were allowed to ask anything we wanted.

In addition to the above listed diagnoses, it is also recommended that my husband and I consider a dysphagia evaluation to address some oral issues.

It was recommended that therapies be increased by A LOT. Right now, we are doing joint occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy sessions for a half hour once weekly. It is recommended that we increase therapy to a minimum of 2x weekly with OT and speech therapies separate. I completely agree with this plan. It is also recommended that we utilize both the South Dakota Birth to 3 Program as well as outpatient therapy at LifeScape in Rapid City, SD. This is what we wanted all along…

MY FIRST LESSON IN ADVOCACY

This is what we wanted all along…I explained to the team in Sioux Falls that when we first started therapy before the official diagnosis, we had informed LifeScape in Rapid City that we wanted to do therapy with them most of all, no matter what, and would even choose their services over Birth to 3 (which is FREE). I played phone tag with LifeScape Rapid City, and I talked to several different individuals. We were told we would be put on the schedule for OT and speech therapy at LifeScape, and even went over what days and times would work best for us and them. I never heard back and never heard back. So, I finally called them. Again, I was kind of given the runaround, but told they would talk to the person in scheduling and get things going. Then, I randomly received a phone call from someone in scheduling. She stated: “It looks like you qualify for Birth to 3 and should be able to receive all of the services you need. Congratulations.” (click…hangs up) I have to admit, at that point I just kind of gave up. I more than got the impression that they preferred we just do Birth to 3. I know there are waiting lists, and I know Birth to 3 is free, BUT I want what I feel is best for MY child. I loved the therapists we saw at LifeScape in Rapid City when my son was seen for his therapy evaluations. The therapists were more than happy that we wanted our son to be seen there. It seemed to be scheduling that thought otherwise. Anyway, I learned my lesson. I have to PUSH and SHOVE and SHOUT and RELENTLESSLY work and NEVER TIRE to make sure my son gets the therapy, care, and support that my husband and I feel he needs and deserves. The therapists at LifeScape in Sioux Falls really helped me to see that. In fact, they said they would call and talk to the head person of LifeScape to make sure that those at the Rapid City branch are made aware of the situation. (All of the LifeScape centers are connected.)

I am actively working on getting us a social worker or some kind of advocate to sit in on meetings and such and to help advocate for Augustus, as well as help us know what’s out there in the way of help and support.

OUTLOOK

With early intervention the outlook always improves. Unfortunately, with autism there really is no outlook per se. A word they actually use with autism (other than spectrum) is fluid.  The autism level is actually fluid. Once my son is ready to start school, he may actually bump up to a level 3 as he is faced with new and difficult tasks, and may really struggle even worse than he does now. It is also possible that he could really grasp things in therapy, and for a while maybe even be at a lower level 2 or even a high 1. There are no answers. There is truly no outlook. I don’t know if I will ever hear my child speak a word, call me mom, tell me he loves me, tell me what he needs. I don’t know if he will ever be able to live on his own, use a toilet, be able to dress himself, have a job, have a family. That’s why I try not to waste my time worrying about the future. I want to enjoy the now and see where things take us. Otherwise, life would be full of worry, fear, and misery.

We will obviously be traveling a lot, and spending a lot of time in therapy. I’m not exactly sure what that means for us. It’s just one of those things we will have to deal with once everything is scheduled. The specialists on the team in Sioux Falls at the evaluation actually said one of their recommendations was for our family to move to Sioux Falls so they could work with my son, as they truly enjoyed him. Don’t think the thought hasn’t crossed my mind. I love where I live, and have never really had much desire to live in a bigger city, especially once starting a family…until now. Granted, that desire is only at about a 1%. You can bet your sweet butt I would do anything to make sure my kids have what’s best for them. That’s why nothing is ever off the table. No, we have no plans of moving right now; none at all. It was brought up, but not seen as being a necessity. Things will be wild and crazy for a while, but then it will become “our normal”. Therapy is always changing and adapting to where the child is at. Therefore, at any time, it could become more or less extensive. We shall see.

It is also highly recommended that we seek out Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and/or Early Start Denver Model (ESDM) therapies. These therapies are not offered at the LifeScape center in Rapid City, SD. Therefore, we are going to attempt to find another place to acquire these services in Rapid City, SD.

I’m sure there are plenty of words and things you may have never heard or do not understand throughout this blog. You’re not alone. I’m learning as I go. I have no choice. Never hesitate to ask. If you’re curious about something or don’t understand something, ask. I am all about advocating and educating.

That’s all for now, friends. I could go on forever. I hope you find these posts helpful or at least entertaining in some way.

Peace & Love,
– AMomsFaithUnbroken

DIAGNOSED

Birth to 3 and our IFSP

IFSP
(Individualized Family Service Plan)

An IFSP is a plan that guides and supports your efforts to boost your child’s development up to age 3. After the age of 3, this turns into an IEP. (More on IEPs later.)

My husband and I met first with our region’s Birth to 3 coordinator. In the very beginning of the meeting, we were to create our “support circle”. This was accomplished by letting our coordinator know who we have that we can talk to or open up to about Augustus. At first, I felt awkward and like our circle would be pretty small; but once we got going, I was able to come up with so many individuals who have helped us in so many ways. I felt so much gratitude after completing that very first task.

We then went over every detail of a day in the life of Augustus to see where and what he would benefit most from occupational and speech therapies. After that, we ranked the things he needs support for most from greatest to least. This list will become the priorities set for his therapies.

Our Birth to 3 coordinator is our advocate and in our corner. We were told we can start or stop anything at any time. We are in control. Our Birth to 3 coordinator will also help us to find other programs and opportunities that may be available to our family and/or Augustus.

We then met with our region’s Birth to 3 program coordinator, a representative for our school district, and the speech therapist that works with our school district. We discussed everything we went over with the coordinator and then the school rep and speech therapist told us their thoughts and we set up a time and place to get therapy started.

For now, we will be traveling to the school for therapy once a week. The speech and occupational therapists will work together for now.

Gus doesn’t have a very long attention span at all, which is something we are working on and have seen improvement in. Therefore, we are meeting just once a week for now and only for half hour periods. He’s a busy dude, a lot goes on in those half hours.

On the IFSP, suggested by the Birth to 3 coordinator, for Dane and I is to have a date night once amonth. We haven’t penciled that in just yet, though.

Good News

As I explained in previous posts, we are waiting to be seen for Augustus’ official autism evaluation. This evaluation gives a clearer picture of where Augustus falls on the ASD (autism spectrum disorder) spectrum. This will help us to see what things may work better for him with regard to communication, learning, etc. This evaluation will also give us an “official diagnosis”, which will help with health insurance and support programs available to us.

These evaluations are four hours long and involve a psychiatrist, a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and a physical therapist. Therefore, they are extremely hard to get scheduled, and it generally takes months (sometimes even a year or more) to be seen.

This evaluation will take place at LifeScape. There is a LifeScape in Rapid City, SD, and Sioux Falls, SD. The Rapid City campus is much closer to us, but if we were to schedule there, we would have been looking at well into 2019 before we could have the evaluation done. Keep in mind, it was June/July 2018 when we were working on getting on the schedule for this evaluation. Sioux Falls was able to get us in late November 2018, so we decided that was the better choice.

The good news is that I received a phone call and was told as long as I got my paperwork sent in within the next few days that Augustus could be seen in mid-October rather than late November. Needless to say, I got my butt in gear and got that paperwork done and sent! These appointments are rarely cancelled and rarely rescheduled as they are so hard to get in the first place. We are one of the lucky few. Woo-hoo!!

Augustus also had to have an official hearing evaluation three weeks minimum before his autism evaluation so they would have time to receive the results and go over them. They do this just to rule out any hearing problems that could be causing or exacerbating any of Augustus’ issues and problems. Thankfully, his primary care physician is amazing and when I called him to let him know we needed to be referred for one he got it done the very next day and had us scheduled for one in Rapid City within the next couple of weeks.

We got his hearing evaluation done, and his hearing is completely fine. I was almost 100% sure this would be the outcome. Once we received the results, I had mixed emotions. The fact that his hearing is completely normal is a good thing, but it also means that all of his listening issues are cognitive. On the flip side, at least there are no hearing problems to add to the things we are already trying to sort out.

I look forward to and dread his autism evaluation. It will be nice to see where he falls on the spectrum, but it will also show me a little bit into what the future might be like for him, and that scares me. I keep in mind that no matter what we find out, nothing changes. He’s still the same Gus I know and love, and literally nothing, to include any diagnosis, will change that.

-AMomsFaithUnbroken

As you will see, and as I have learned, there are a whole lot of acronyms in the special needs world. I sometimes even quiz Dane on a few here and there, just to make sure we are staying on top of everything we are doing and are able to explain to others.