Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Medicated Mothers

Every mom I know with a child on the autism spectrum is on anti-anxiety medication, anti-depressants or both. Myself included. At first, I was surprised by this, and gratified--phew, I wasn't the only one needing some chemical assistance to cope. Then I was concerned---okay, does this mean that we, the anxious and/or depressed moms are responsible for our kids' brain development in this department? Some studies support this idea, so then I felt guilty. Then I mentioned it to our kid's psychiatrist at Kerr Early Intervention.

And she smiled and said it didn't surprise her. Many parents of kids on the spectrum develop PT SD from the constant state of high alert and unpredictability, she told me. It was quite common. Okay, I thought, add that to my list of mental health diagnoses, but at least I'm not alone.

I mention this not to rag on my in many ways brilliant about-to-be-six, a kid so aware of his convoluted neuropathways that he can remember when they branched off in new territory in his late two's, early three's, and can describe his acute discomfort with emotion better than most teens. When he's not kicking the shit out of me.

I mention it because CNN American Morning is running a story about autism right now that will bring it to the attention of parents of typical children, many of whom don't have a clue to this other reality, this other kind of kid. The first part of the story ran yesterday, focusing on a family with three kids, the middle one a thirteen year-old girl with autism and lots of explosions, then another episode aired today, and the final one tomorrow.

To read a cnn.com article about the show, go to http://www.cnn.com/2008/HEALTH/12/23/autism.911/index.html

My hope is that people follow the whole story. This family is receiving free intervention--to change patterns and improve their daughter's behavior--in exchange for being written about and filmed during it, an intrusion so deep it must be painful to the extreme. They will be judged mercilessly, at least in the beginning, by people who insist that their daughter only needs "more discipline".

I don't think I'll be disputed by my fellow medicated mothers when I say that a big part of our stress is from the judgment of others we, and our kids, get hit with every day. We have kids who've been kicked out of preschools, playgroups, playgrounds, swim programs and the supermarket. Sometimes even after early intervention, or medication, or expert knowledge has been applied like a balm. The two most helpful resources I've ever encountered to alleviate the stress, guilt and pain of judgment are a website (can't remember exactly but it was one with authority) where (to paraphrase) I read that "commands or orders will NEVER work with a child with Asperger's", and the book The Explosive Child by Dr. Ross Greene (http://www.explosivechild.com/books/index.html). It also helped, in a weird way, when two different therapeutic classroom teachers told me that they'd found absolutely no effective way to discipline our child.

Really?! Do tell.

With about one in one hundred and fifty kids getting diagnosed on the spectrum, the CNN piece is timely, and President Obama is right on getting it onto the national health agenda. Our brilliant and highly capable kids on the spectrum deserve some respect.


Mo said...

I'm glad you're writing more about this. I'm not medicated, but I probably should be. The bike and the exercise that comes with it are an absolute necessity! I'm taking a class through PSU right now on Asperger's and that has also been really good for me. The people taking the class are either very familiar with AS or they want to learn, so it is a highly supportive environment. I too got a lot out of The Explosive Child.

BerengariaD said...

Thanks Mo, I guess I know one who's not! I hear exercise is also key to survival. I'm working on that one now that the little guy is in school.