My son, Adam, was born on April 10, 1989. He has Asperger’s syndrome or high functioning autism. Age wise, he is on the very leading edge of the tsunami of autistic children. As such, he was not correctly diagnosed until he was 8 years old. We took him to a well known medical center for a diagnosis and specifically asked if he was autistic, and they said no, just PDD – Pervasive Developmental Delay. Today he would have been diagnosed years earlier as he had all the classic symptoms.
I will never forget the evening when Annetta, my wife, was researching on the internet. I call it Internet .5 of the 90’s since it was limited information and rough finding data. She hollered for me to come and see something. It was a list of the primary characteristics of someone with Asperger’s Syndrome Every item on the list was one Adam exhibited –lack of eye contact, low muscle tone,lack of attention span,etc. Within a week we had a confirmation of the diagnosis from the TEACCH organization at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, NC.
In the middle and late ‘90s there were no standards or “best practices” protocols to provide for the best possible outcome for autistic children. We were in the dark and Annetta spend hours researching and reading about Autism and the many varied programs that were available. Each was advocated by practitioners who had seen it work. She attended conferences, we bought several pieces of equipment, attended programs, diets - tried them all. Some worked, but to varying degrees, and never the way it was presented.
During this time we had the usual “fights” with the public school system during his elementary school years. They were as much in the dark about how to best handle autistic children as we were.