This morning Barney had his appointment with the paediatrician who specialises in autism in children. He missed the morning of school and we headed off at the crack of dawn to miss the school traffic on the way to Lurgan. He was a bit nervous and panicked just a little when he realised both Daddy and I would be going, and not just me as he had imagined. We got over that by letting him sit in the front of the car while I drove (Daddy being relegated to the back with Rosie).
The appointment started with the four of us and the doctor. Dr N had a little chat with Barney who sat at a little table playing with some cars. He asked him questions about school, his interests, his family etc. Then he asked Marty to take Barney and Rosie for a walk while I answered questions to form a history.
So I spent an hour and a half answering questions about every stage of Barneys life so far. A lot of them were hard to remember the answers to. What age did he sit, crawl, walk, talk? How did he transition from breast to bottle, from bottle to solids, from purees to real food? It’s hard to remember such details after four children!
He asked about all Barneys symptoms. I don’t think symptoms is the right word, since he doesn’t have an illness, but I’m lost for the right word at the moment. For every ‘symptom’ that I gave he would go back over his life bit by bit to see when those symptoms started and how they progressed. For instance, we spoke about how he can’t handle being given a meal at dinner time if he hasn’t been told in advance what it is. So then he asked about his eating habits as a baby, then a toddler, then at age 3, 4, etc. So the whole thing took quite some time.
We discussed his difficulties with interacting with other children, his panic attacks, his hate of surprises, his ‘obsessions’, his imagination, how he plays, how he talks, how he does a jigsaw puzzle (apparently there’s more than one way to do a puzzle!) He asked me a million questions and I answered them as best as I could. He also made me think a little. I said that Barney has a good imagination, but the doctor questioned that and asked me to watch and see whether the imagination he has is really his own thoughts, or a re-enactment of things he has seen and heard elsewhere. When I thought about that it did make sense. He said that many people don’t notice the difference until it is pointed out to them.
Anyway, he wrote a lot of notes and is going to speak to Barneys teachers this week. He said that many people live perfectly happy lives with Asperger Syndrome (which he kept stressing was not an illness and is a perfectly normal way to be – which I already knew) and do not need a diagnosis. He knows a lot of children whose parents haven’t gone further in seeking a diagnosis. But he felt that due to the anxiety and panic attacks that Barney has regularly, he really does need to be seen further and to get a proper diagnosis so that he can receive help and we can all learn how to reduce his anxiety.
So Barney will now be seen at the ‘communication clinic’, which he said is a clinic solely for children on the autistic spectrum. They will come out to our home and out to the school. He will be given therapy to help with the anxiety, and should start being seen by the clinic within a couple of weeks. I can’t wait to start getting some help and some answers. So far all I have done is answer questions, which is an understandable part of the process, but what we really need is to learn more about Aspergers and find ways to help Barney lead a less panic stricken life.