I wrote last week about a noted psychologist’s growing concern with the pathologizing of “normal” boy behaviors. I received a lot of responses from parents who had resisted advice to medicate their young sons. Now that their sons were grown and doing fine, they were glad they did.
Among the e-mails that I received was this from parent J. Scott Thompson, who kindly agreed to let me share it here as I thought he made important points.
In general, my piece – which ran both in the AJC and in the blog - was an interview with Anthony Rao about his new book, “The Way of Boys: Raising Healthy Boys in a Challenging and Complex World.”
Among the things that Dr. Rao told me: “We used to miss a lot of learning problems in boys years ago. But now we are looking so aggressively for them and we are looking earlier and earlier. Rather than rushing into a program to help troublesome behaviors, many boys benefit from a wait-and-see approach.”
Thompson sent me a thoughtful response that confirmed what I realized early in my reporting career: Parents of children with special needs have to be vigilant and outspoken advocates for their children. They get little help from society at large. And even the best school programs are limited by a lack of sufficient funds.
But let Thompson tell his story:
Under normal circumstances, I quite agree with your position. I do believe that, as parents, it is easy to fall prey to the reactionary impulse.
As you cite, normal child development can often be misinterpreted and misdiagnosed. And with all of the money to be made in doing so, the doctors and “experts” aren’t much help. There is so much contradictory information out there that sometimes people are best off just remaining calm and letting the natural order of things take their course.
We have a four-year-old son who, last year, was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. We had been suspecting this for over a year prior to the diagnosis. Developmentally, he was not where he should be. There were other problems detected that were part of the overall problem.
To be succinct, my son has been in a special needs pre-k for almost two years. He is receiving occupational as well as speech/language therapy and other services. At his last IEP, we learned from his team that he has met and surpassed many of the goals set for him in August. We’ve seen tremendous progress.
Naturally, there are too many variables at work to be able to pinpoint reasons for my son’s success; and that is not my point.
My point is, that in our case, EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND INTERVENTION were key. Sometimes parents must react and react early if their children are to be given a fighting chance.
Here’s what I wish you would do. I wish you’d look into the expense that comes along with having a special-needs child. We’ve had to pay out-of-pocket expenses for developmental pediatrician visits, for nutritional supplements (my son has Celiac’s Disease) and for numerous therapy sessions as well as teaching materials. Many insurance providers will not cover such costs; they still look at Autism as a mental/emotional and not a medical disorder.
And because of the expenses, many parents of special needs children do not get the treatments they need and end up “lost” before they even have a chance. My wife and I are both educators, and we understand how important it is to be our son’s advocate.
We know we have a voice. Many parents don’t. Would you be willing to help give them one?