Meet Dacotah, my 13 year old son, that was diagnosed with autism when he was 10, but because of me misunderstanding we didn’t realize he had the diagnosis until he was 12. Dacotah has participated in past years for Faces of Autism, you can read last year’s story HERE.
In the past year we discovered he had a diagnosis, which was huge. He had wanted us to pursue furthering testing, but after getting a copy of his records we realized that was unnecessary. Dacotah is now in 7th grade and participates in the AVID program in his school. He has had a much better school year this year which we both attribute to an understanding team of teachers.
Dacotah is smart, kind, and athletic. He takes pride in his accomplishments and works hard to overcome his challenges. Dacotah does a good job entertaining his younger siblings, most of the time, and they really enjoy spending time with him. He is passionate about his interests. Dacotah is a HUGE Kansas City Chiefs fan. He likes playing baseball, football and has recently begun weight training at the school. He likes playing Magic the Gathering and solving the Rubik’s cube. Dacotah likes playing video games, watching Anime, and playing with friends in the neighborhood.
Dacotah has to work hard with social skills and social communication. He has made huge improvements in these areas, but there is still some work to be done as social interactions become more complex the older he gets. Dacotah struggles with executive functioning and needs continuous prompting for many daily activities. He gets easily distracted by things in the environment and has a hard time expressing his emotions. His anxiety has gotten worse as he gets older and he often times puts to much pressure on himself to do things perfectly.
One of the positive things about raising a child with autism has been learning to be more open-minded and less judgmental. Dacotah may seem like a typical child if you spend a short amount of time with him but if you get to know him you will notice some of the things that make him different. Learning this about my son, I have learned to be more accepting of differences in others. And I try my best to teach my children to do the same.
One of the biggest challenges I have experienced while raising Dacotah has been frustration. It is easy to get frustrated with the situation, whether it is because he is always considered “borderline”, not bad enough to get extra support, but not good enough to not need it, or whether it is with the lack of executive functioning skills. Dacotah doesn’t plan ahead, lacks problem solving skills, and has poor working memory among others. These things are all what most people would consider “common sense” skills, but Dacotah has to work hard and needs support from those around him to accomplish these. If you would like to learn more about executive functioning, THIS was a really informative read.
There are many different ways to support an autistic individual and their family. Spend time with the person, let them teach you about their interests, pay attention to what they are saying to you and ask questions. Many individuals with autism have very specific interests and know A LOT about those things. And they love talking about the things they love.
If you suspect your child has autism, or any delays, I highly encourage you to seek an evaluation. Like many other parents throughout this project, I cannot stress enough the importance of early intervention. Labels are nothing to be scared of, but they can help your child. Getting an evaluation doesn’t hurt and can either put your mind at ease or help get the appropriate services and therapies they may need,