I have identical twin boys. Their world today is very different than their world was a few years ago. Pre-recovery, all they got for Christmas was books. It was all they wanted. I'll never forget their 3rd Christmas. As they came down the stairs Christmas morning, they focused on the large stacks of books. They didn't just like any books, they liked the books that were about learning to read, write, and do math. They yelled, "Books!" with excitement, and then tore through the stacks as if they were the happiest children in the world -- getting just what they wanted for Christmas.
I suppose one would be wondering, "What's so bad about that." Well, the bad news is that their world consisted of only letters and numbers. Caregivers and relatives would complain how they would not respond to their name, nor recognize them. At the store, they would point to numbers, while ignoring the toys. At home, they would sit for hours at a time, exploring books. The only attention they gave to toys, were to line them up. The only exception was electronic learning toys. They obsessed over them to such an extent that they were able to use these devices to teach themselves to read, write, and do math. They would write a sentence in perfect manuscript or incursive, such as, "I want a cookie." At first, I thought my children were just geniuses, but. . . . . even though they could write complete sentences, their speech consisted of a very small amount of words. They would approach me and say, "A cookie," or "A drink." When I asked them to say the sentence, "I want a cookie," they would cry instead. I had to admit to myself, that they, too, were part of the current autism epidemic. A local psychologist diagnosed them both with PDD, NOS.
They were 3 years and 3 months at the time recovery efforts were started. They started responding right away, but slowly. They barely made it into regular education classes. They were potty trained just a few months before it was time to start Kindergarten. After a few weeks of school, I was contacted by an Assistant Principal and informed that my children had difficulty with transitioning, and that their obsessions and meltdowns were creating doubts amongst their teachers that they would be able to continue in school. Recovery treatments were stepped up, and they were able to continue in regular education classes. Today, they are in the 2nd grade, and treated by school personnel as if they are neurotypical. Most days they do well, but there are still some meltdowns. Recovery is not absolute in my family. Those last few symptoms seem to be stubborn, fading back in from time to time. Just when you think they may be able to tolerate a reduction in recovery treatments, a symptom will flare back up. Thus, they are in managed recovery which has it's own set of stresses and uncertainties.
(Here are the boys last week in their holiday show.)
The Christmases that followed, have been very different than that pre-recovery Christmas day I described. This year, their Christmas list is full of board games, Nintendo games, and K'nex. They want Mario and Plants versus Zombies. They want to play, wrestle, and hug their siblings and relatives. They did not grow out of their symptoms, as people who are uninformed often think. It took grand efforts to get them into recovery, and it continues to take grand efforts to keep them there. The many doctors and parents who get on this Internet and explain the causes of symptoms and treatments that rebuild immune systems are who I thank. Thank you for these Christmases in recovery, and blessings to all -- that all may find comfort and healing.
Heidi Noyer, MS
Heidi Noyer received the CHOICE Award for Outstanding Mentor in 2009 for donating countless hours informing parents of the various treatment methods available that can significantly decrease disabling symptoms. Having five children with various diagnoses of ADHD, OCD, Asperger's, Bipolar, PDD, NOS, and more, she has first-hand experience in tackling challenging diagnoses.