The autism label would be used less frequently, under a proposal by the American Psychiatric Association. I don’t know what this will mean for my daughter, but I do know what the label has meant.
The doctor who told us that Kai was on the autism spectrum immediately wanted to know how that made us feel. My gut reaction: “it seems like just a label.” I thought of my 7th grade friend Dave who was odd and couldn’t get better than Ds, no matter what he did. I thought of the third grader who I tutored in reading, who just smiled shyly and never read a word.
Yes, the doctor said, it’s just a label. Back when we were growing up, we just thought some kids were weird or slow. They got bad grades, lurked on the fringes, then grew up and figured out ways to fit in. Some became janitors. Some became investment bankers.
Having a label gave us ideas to make Kai’s maturation less traumatic. Her teachers know how to help her curb her nervous ticks. Her brother knows how to instruct her on interpersonal behavior without scolding. Her mom can predict melt-down situations and prepare to ease all of us through them. I can temper my concern about her academic progress by rejoicing in her unique spirit.
I guess the psychiatrists are concerned that autism labels are being handed out too liberally. I don’t think kids and parents care much what it’s called, but we do welcome the therapies that come with the diagnosis. Kai learned about personal space and thought bubbles in social classes. She learned self-confidence in a special skiing program at Breckenridge. She learned focus and drive through horseback riding therapy.
I think her teachers at Highland Elementary in Littleton would have developed a successful individual education program for her, regardless the diagnosis. But I think the label helped them fine-tune it.
The label helped us get some of her therapy covered by insurance because of a new Colorado law.
I worry that if the APA draws the label line differently that many families will be left to fumble in the dark.


There is 1 comment so far

  • Nancy Traver
    8 years ago

    Beautiful photo of you and your daughter, Steve. My son is being tested now for autism. His previous diagnosis is bipolar disorder. It’s all just words, medications, symptoms and therapies.

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