Monday, February 14, 2011

About a Girl

When Katie was three our pediatrician diagnosed her with pddnos. She had seem my child in all her glory, and told us a program like ABA would be beneficial.

The problem? Our school district didn't agree. A medical diagnosis isn't good enough, you know. A child needs an educational diagnosis to receive services at school. She was in an integrated preschool program, but only received speech therapy, and they refused to give her anything more. In their opinion her behaviors were just part of her personality. She was constantly sitting in time out, and was even told she wasn't welcome in the classroom if she continued to behave a certain way. At 3. Can I add that she barely spoke at this age, too. Severely behind on verbal communication, but her behaviors were looked at as having nothing to do with that. Right.

To this day I 100% believe that had Katie been a boy she would have been diagnosed much earlier. People would have looked at her behaviors, lack of communication, social differences, and seen her for what she was-a child with Autism. Instead, she was just a drama queen.

There are other things that don't stand out for girls. Lining up dolls or stuffed animals isn't a red flag like the lining up of cars. All Katie did, and still does to this day, is line up her "girl" toys, but not actually pretend play with them.

On Katie's 3rd birthday my mom bought her a dollhouse and came over early to set it all up. Any other 3 yr old girl would run over ecstatic. I have witnessed other 3yo's playing with a dollhouse. Heck, my 15 mo niece can appropriately play with one. Katie walked over and began throwing and pushing all the pieces out, then walked away. Just her personality, right?

It is frustrating how every day when picking Katie up from preschool I got a bad report. It became even more frustrating inKindergarten, even after her diagnosis, when I received phone calls and notes home about her behavior, without anyone caring there was a root cause. Oh, and did I mention no one thought to share her IEP with any teacher besides the classroom one? So you can image the tings I heard from her gym teacher, music teacher, art teacher...

At one point last year the school guidance counselor even pulled me aside and handed me a note. When I opened it, it read 1,2,3 Magic. Yes, because Katie was just a discipline problem. (and we already own a copy, thanks).

Let me hazard a guess that if a little boy started hitting his classmates, you can be sure something would be done. Katie starts hitting and it's pushed under the rug. No big deal.

If a little boy crumpled his papers in class and refused to do his work there is probably a good chance that behavior would be flagged. Not with Katie. Of course it's not that she has a weak grasp and hates writing. Of course it isn't because the anxiety over having to do work or take a test gets the best of her. She is a girl and girls are drama.

Even this year when she was running from the classrooms nothing was done until I pushed for something to be done. It was all downplayed. Even after a diagnosis from a developmental ped, one that the school accepted, Katie is still treated most of the time like a  the bad kid. Just recently I had the Autism specialist (from the school district!) go to bat for us because Katie was being dealt with as though she was a typical kid
(meaning how a typical kid would be treated for behavior issues), and the fact is children with Autism don't respond well to that (meaning punishment and negative reinforcement) because they aren't doing it for the same reasons.

I have met the parents of little boys her age, with the same diagnosis, but who receive a ton more therapy. I know little boys higher functioning than Katie who spend half their days in a substantially separate class.

But Katie isn't afforded any of this extra help. And I fully believe it is because she is a girl and girls are looked at and treated a different way. I also believe there are girls who are probably being left out to dry. Katie is the only girl in her speech group, the only girl in hersocial skills group. Are you telling me in the whole school she is the only girl her age on the spectrum? Or is she just the only girl who has a pain in the ass mother pushing to make sure her child gets what she needs.

Even in first grade, at 7 years old, it is still a constant battle.

A lot of girls are diagnosed with Autism later than boys, and a lot of girls do not receive the therapy they need to be successful. I am hoping as more research is done this will change. Autism isn't just a disorder for boys, and it's about time everyone realized that.

Jen is the mother of two wonderful children and she blogs here. I consider her a good friend and a great listener. Her daughter Katie and my son Racer share a lot of similar problems and its great to know that we're not alone in this world. So show her some love here on her post and on her blog! 


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