Meet Lucas.

January 28, 2011 1 comment

 

Lucas with a toy computer his Uncle Shaun gave him during X'mas 2010.

Lucas turned 14 in December 2010.

I had a very easy pregnancy and childbirth, and Lucas was a very easy baby to care for. We did however notice that he seemed to develop a little slower than other babies his age. He wasn’t speaking and at age two, he wasn’t walking on his own.

Well-meaning friends and relatives would assure us that “boys tend to be slower. He’ll catch up.” Or “It’s because he doesn’t have older siblings to follow. You know, monkey see monkey do. He has no monkey to imitate.” Even our neighbourhood doctor, who although was a general practitioner, seemed to be popular with children, said that there was nothing to worry about, and that it’s just a ‘slight delay’. Well, guess what – the slight delay turned out to be real major!

Ultimately, I brought Lucas for a developmental assessment at the children’s hospital, and after several sessions with the paediatricians, child psychologists, therapists and social workers, they diagnosed him with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

I didn’t know anyone with autism before that day and I remembered very calmly leaving the hospital with Lucas and his diagnosis.

The next few months were the most difficult and emotionally tumultuous. I was reading every bit of information I could find about autism. My spirits would soar when I learn about a trait that Lucas did not seem to have – surely this must mean that there could have been a misdiagnosis? Only to have that high feeling come crashing down the next minute when I came across another trait that’s so typical of Lucas. For those few months, I cried myself to sleep every night.

By nature, I am optimistic yet practical. So my emotions settled down eventually. By then, we were shuttling between various therapies – at both government-subsidised centres and private therapists. We put him on the waiting list of several centers that offered early intervention programmes. We tried brushing (until his hair began to thin and fall out!). We put him on a Tomatis programme until it was pulled out. Even acupuncture recently.

Fast forward 11+ years, Lucas is still non-verbal. He gestures and uses some PECS to communicate. He loves music – from Barney to Black-Eyed Peas. He started walking shortly after his diagnosis and today, he still needs work on gross and fine motoring skills. He attends a special school for persons with autism, and his teachers have always praised him for being attentive, compliant and easy to work with. He loves swimming and his favourite holidays are at a beach resort. He is very obedient but still doesn’t understand traffic rules.

While I hope and pray that one day Lucas can be fully integrated into mainstream society, I do realise that he is likely to need life-long assistance. His teachers, therapists and I now work on goals that would lead to his independence – which is my final goal for him.

 

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My son is not retarded. He has autism.

January 27, 2011 2 comments

Lucas is 14 and takes a private bus to a special school. The school is a mere 10 min drive from our condo, but the school transport picks him up 45 mins before school starts (which is better than the one hour they originally wanted which I fought against.)

This morning, the school bus arrived about 5 minutes early, and the driver wanted the security guard at our condo to call up to our apartment to notify us. Before the guard (who is relatively new) could do so, I’d already walked Lucas down to the waiting area. After making sure Lucas was safely buckled and watching the bus drive off, I started to return to my apartment whereby the guard came to inform me of the driver’s earlier request. I explained that the driver was early and in future, to just ask that he wait by the porch.

All of a sudden, the guard said, “Don’t be offended but it appears to me that your son is a little retarded.” He was quick to add though that my “son was not as bad as the other boy on the bus with him.”

“He is not retarded,” I told him rather shortly. “He has autism.” And I walked off.

Usually when I tell people of Lucas’ autism, I would elaborate on the disorder, what the signs and symptoms are, treatments available etc. But I wasn’t in the mood to do so this morning.

Somehow the word ‘retarded’ rubs me off the wrong way. I feel that it is such a derogatory term, and even if it wasn’t directed to me or a loved one , I tend to cringe when others hurl it as an insult to another (usually quite normal person).

Did I overact? Did I just miss out of an opportunity to educate someone about autism?

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