The Faces of Autism: Meet Dacotah
Meet Dacotah, a smart 11 year old boy that is NOT officially diagnosed with Autism. He was also featured last year, you can read up HERE. Also, Dacotah is my son, in case you didn't know!
Even though Dacotah doesn't have a diagnosis, I include him because I know there are many out there in the same situation as he is in. The "inbetween" kids. The "borderline", the "fall through the cracks" kids. Kids that have some serious struggles in areas, but those struggles aren't quite enough to warrant extra help like an IEP, waivered services, etc.
When Dacotah was around 4 he had violent meltdowns. The only way I could calm him down was by holding him tightly, making sure his arms and legs were contained (think sitting on the floor with his back to me and my legs crisscrossed over his, it wasn't as bad as sounds!). At the time, I had no idea why, I must have been doing something wrong, right? It wasn't until some family members witnessed one of these meltdowns and outright told me this wasn't "normal" that I got him a referral. We started with the child psychologist, who referred us to a neurologist, who referred us to OT where he was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder. He played with legos in a typical fashion so Autism was ruled out at the time. Last year I took him back to the psychologist and it was considered a possibility, but the doctor wanted him to spend some more time in OT (we had a break for a few years) before he would make a diagnosis. I didn't persue it any further, yet. I am not sure if I will.
Once Dacotah learns something, he has it. He has that skill, but only exactly like he learned it. He has a problem with flexible thinking. He can't grasp rule changes in games and will argue to the end with someone who changes a rule on him. This, along with taking things literally have created a few school related problems. He was being bullied at one point but didn't tell anyone because his teacher had said "what happens on the playground, stays on the playground" in reference to who one or lost at whatever the game was that day. But because she didn't add in "unless you are being picked on, teased, pushed, etc", he felt like he wasn't supposed to tell her.
Over the past year, Dacotah has been discharged from OT and has started Social Communication in Speech. They work on learning how to read body language, tone, sarcasm, among other things. He learns how to have a conversation. Dacotah only answers the question in front of him and doesn't ever elaborate or reciprocate, "How was your day?" is answered with "Good." There is never "Good, we did a science experiment. How was your day?"
Dacotah wants people know that he doesn't want to be treated differently. He wants others to know that he is not "stupid", his brain just works differently. He is nervous about his transition to middle school next year, about his future teachers, having to go to multiple classes and meeting new kids.
If you suspect your child may have an Autism Spectrum Disorder, there are great supports in the community. One of my favorites is BisMan Autism Families on Facebook.
Please feel free to share Dacotah's story to help spread Autism Awareness and Acceptance.