I've been getting a lot of questions about Joey and Andy from people and email lately. Probably that "Yes! You Can Ask Me About Autism" bumper sticker on my car... but anyway, for those folks bouncing around, here's the scoop, in no particular order:
What is Joey's diagnosis? Joey is autistic.
Does Andy have a diagnosis? Andy has sensory integration dysfunction or sensory processing disorder, which are terms often used interchangeably, and are definitely used interchangeably by his therapists. Andy is not autistic.
What is Joey's functioning level? Joey is considered "high functioning." Which tells you exactly nothing. His main issues are expressive communication and perseveration/ritualistic behaviors. Joey is currently unable to function in a normal classroom environment without support.
Is Joey's autism regressive or non-regressive? Non-regressive. Joey was born autistic. He did not lose skills, and displayed autistic traits from Day One (possibly earlier).
Is Joey verbal or non-verbal? Although Joey has very severe expressive communication disabilities, we consider Joey to be verbal.
Did vaccines cause Joey's autism? Do you believe vaccines caused Joey's autism? No.
Does Joey receive ABA? Yes. He presently has one two-hour session of ABA to work on skill generalization and communication.
What other interventions have you implemented for Joey? Joey is in public special education. He also receives private speech therapy, private occupational therapy, and takes music lessons.
Is Andy in therapy? Yes. Andy had private speech therapy and currently has occupational therapy.
Why isn't Andy in public special education? Andy is not disabled. He has issues with sensory integration, but is able to function in a normal classroom environment.
Are you autistic? No.
Is your husband autistic? Is anyone else in your family autistic? No.
How did you know Joey was autistic? At age two, Joey did not point and did not speak. By two and a half, still without pointing or speaking, we took him to a speech pathologist, who informed us that he was either profoundly autistic or profoundly deaf or both. He was proven to not be profoundly deaf, so we went to Kluge and saw Dr. Blackman, who diagnosed him as autistic.
How did you get Joey to speak? I wish I could hand folks an answer to getting children to communicate, because I am pretty sure folks who ask me this are looking for that magic bullet. I get asked this a lot. So I just want to put on the disclaimer that this might not work for everybody. However, our breakthrough came through sign language. When the SLP handed us the "deaf or autistic" verdict, we decided any communication would be better than the nothing we had. We bought Baby Babble, a dvd intended to help kids learn to talk. What he learned with the sign for "more." Armed with this new way of getting cookies, bubbles, and anything else, Joey discovered there were ways of getting needs met that involved making sounds or gestures... language. Clever little thing that he is, and the great lover of cookies, bubbles, and getting Mom and Dad to do stuff, he started trying out these new things called "words." Six months later, he had about 25 of them to use. A couple years later, we became fans of Signing Time, which gives him lots more signs to use and to help him understand what others are saying to him (as well as giving us signs to use with him!) Yes, we recommend trying this visual and kinetic means of communication if your child is having trouble with expressive speech.
I'm sure I'll get lots of new questions and feel the need to do this again, but I hope this helps folks in the meantime!