Like most parents of AS children, I can relate to that before-the-diagnosis uncertain feeling.
We’ve lived through it. To begin with, the wondering (why is my child different?), then the realization (Asperger’s Syndrome!), and finally… the question of diagnosis. Is it necessary? What difference will it make?
Many, many of us have been there.
First, the most important thing is to help your child. An appointment can take weeks or months to arrive, and there’s no point wasting that precious time in just waiting. And waiting. As a parent, there are a lot of things that can be done – even outside of hiring behavior analysts and occupational therapists – to help develop skills right now, before that fateful appointment day.
- look into social skills classes
- check out the local CARD center – or other organization – for parent classes or seminars
- look online for information
- Read! My list of recommended reading is here.
- Lots of games out there help grow skills while being easy and fun to play. Find a few under the Games category. Also, plenty of other books and sites out there have amazing – and free – suggestions.
- Odds are you know your child’s strengths and challenges. Don’t be afraid to help him/her work on those. Plenty of praise and positive encouragement do wonders.
That said, a formal diagnosis can be a powerful friend.
We’ve often heard people say that they don’t wish to chain their child to a diagnosis – and have that carried with them everywhere they go – all through school. However, we looked at it like this: yes, our son has Asperger’s Syndrome. And that will be in his record. But so what? I mean, really… so what? As long as he’s getting the help he needs in school, he’ll grow and learn and succeed. If we go all hush-hush on this – and AS is not a disease or anything shameful – he won’t get any assistance. And that will be hurtful in the long run.
Enter the public school system.
You’ll need a diagnosis to go through the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process they use in the schools. This may give your child access to social skills classes, speech pragmatics, possibly occupational therapy, educational aids and more. It gives you rights, and your child the extra bit he/she may need to succeed.
In other words, what’s important about the diagnosis is that there’s something backing you up besides just your word for it. It’s sad, really, but a parent’s word has disintegrated into almost nothing (thank you, lunatic, lawsuit-happy people). In addition, the diagnostic process may highlight particular areas of concern, allowing you to focus energy – and money – more productively.
Oh, and if your insurance company springs for any therapy, they’ll need that diagnosis before they can approve payment.
So make the appointment. But don’t wait for the appointment. Take action now.
Note: Unsure as to who can make a diagnosis? Ask your pediatrician for a referral, or contact your local autism organization – like CARD – for a list of names.