Autistic Child Area signs…

PECS card available at http://www.do2learn.com/picturecards/printcards/index.htm

So a week or so ago, we were going to see some friends, and happened across an "Autistic Child Area" sign. I was completely dumbfounded by this sign. As someone with Asperger's syndrome, I should probably at least know how to react to such a sign, right? And maybe I could tell others!

Heck no. I have no idea what you're supposed to do differently with these signs. In fact, my amusing (and okay, pretty horrible) first thought leads to the image on the left. My immediate first reaction was "Maybe I should velcro a 'don't run in front of cars' PECS card on my front bumper? I mean seriously, how am I supposed to react to a sign like this?"

So a person who has thought about this for just a second would say "obviously, you should watch for children running out into the street. You should know, your kid has a problem with wandering and you always have to keep an eye on him for exactly this reason!" – But my response to this would be simple – "But that's not what the sign says, it just indicates that someone with a pervasive development disorder lives on the street. It doesn't give any guidance to the driver as to what is going on, so as a parent I'd just be hoping that all the drivers are aware of the risk of elopement and lack of awareness of danger. Poo on that. That's ridiculous. And besides, I should be watching for that anyway, because neurotypical kids run carelessly into the street all the time. If I'm not watching for that, a sign warning of autism isn't going to help either."

I would much rather drivers be paying attention to the road than pondering the meaning of a vague road sign in my neighborhood, that's for certain. I think we have far too many signs out these days that provide little or no useful information that tend to distract drivers, or numb them to road signs, causing them to disregard information when it really is serious, because some signs don't matter.

And ahh yes, elopement, that's one of my favorite parts of parenthood at the moment. Billy tends to go where ever he wants, given his choice. Oh, a puppy across the street? I know we've practiced not crossing the sidewalk boundary a hundred times, but … but .. puppy! Turn your back for a second, and he's right out at the edge of the street! And while we were camping this summer, we ended up having to use a hot pink trail marking ribbon strung around our campground to keep him from wandering throughout the campground, no matter where we went. In St Ignace, I went into the back of my car to grab our tent, and in the 30 seconds I was otherwise occupied, he silently walked away, and was found two roads down (in the campground) at a campfire with several other campers, pointing at the fire and saying "fire, fire". It was completely terrifying because it had just become dusk, and I couldn't easily see him. And of course, he doesn't respond when his name is called. I was so relieved to find him safe that I didn't even care how awful I must have looked to the other campers, parent wise. After that, we went back to last year's old standby of attaching a glowstick to his back where he couldn't see it. He tended to respect the pink trail ribbon boundaries more often than not, and we briefed our nearby campers on the risks of him wandering, and asked them to try to distract him if he showed up, and also not to give him milk or soy products if he asks, as he's allergic. (Thankfully,all the fellow campers were very accepting of Billy)

On the upside, our PCP finally referred us to Beaumont's Center for Human Development for a proper medical diagnosis of Autism. YAY! Once they nail down the diagnosis, and define what treatments are medically necessary, it will be helpful to get any necessary therapy for Billy when school is out over the summer. It won't have any effect on our educational treatments, which are done based on federal and state special education guidelines, but will help us in private therapies when the school is out and they aren't providing them, as our therapists at the school can't provide referrals to private specialists under our HMO. So you're asking "you don't have a diagnosis yet?" – yes and no. We have every medical professional we've met saying "yeah, it seems like he does, he meets all the signs, but it's not my specialty". We have the school saying "He meets the federal criteria to receive his school based services, and the rest is none of our business." This is the final piece of the puzzle that helps us with getting insurance to cover more than just speech therapy (which they covered directly based on a referral from his pediatrician for speech delay). This will be with a developmental pediatrician, and will flip all the right bits in the insurance company and medical information systems to get us the right services in the private world. It will make discussions with medical professionals a lot easier, since with a label, you don't have to go and re-explain everything every time we deal with a new medical professional.

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