Which leads me to a family update! Bear with me, this is long but so important.
We have always called Aidan quirky. As a child she was outgoing and would make friends with children years ahead of her. She could boss them around and they'd love it. I'll never forget when she was 9 and we were at the park where she was carrying on a conversation with some older kids. When they found out she was only 9 they couldn't believe it. When I asked them why they thought she was much older they said it was because she could argue so well. Quirky. We never had any issues with her in her youth. Ever. She was a model child.
As Aidan eased into her late tween years we noticed a marked shift in her personality. Arguments became black or white, no grey area. She became literal. She lost all patience with her siblings and pushed them away by her attitude. Her response to what we saw as significant behavior issues was not typical. She became socially awkward. And anxiety started to set in. She would fixate on future events (years in advance) and panic about it. As parents, we struggled along with her because we saw a dramatic shift in her personality. We could not understand where the behavior, the anxiety, the arguments, the strange thought patterns, were coming from. Was it stress from being the third sibling with a severely disabled younger bother who took all our time? Was it the loss of two beloved siblings playing itself out in behavior issues as a teen? Was it something at school? We loved her very much but she was pushing everyone away and made it hard to like her. Still, we struggled to parent her appropriately.
It was an afternoon like any other when I was driving home with Aidan and Liam. I decided to play a little joke on Aidan and it backfired terribly. She didn't realize I was joking. I didn't understand her inability to realize I was joking. It started an argument and ended with her in a full blown panic attack as we walked in the door. She was hysterical, breathing shallow, sobbing, and incoherent. I couldn't talk to her because she couldn't even hear me. I felt like she needed a slap back to reality, like what you'd see in a movie, but I couldn't do that to my girl, so I turned around and had to walk away from her. It was at that moment I finally realized she needed help. We took her to a child psychologist who diagnosed her with anxiety. We started her on Prozac and she started working through her intrusive thoughts and anxiety. She started to calm down and was getting better.
But Aidan thought something else was wrong with her. She didn't feel normal. She didn't think she thought like other people. She didn't feel like other people feel and she didn't react to things the way other people did. So she started to research and try to self diagnose what was wrong with her brain. She started pouring through articles, DSM's, commentaries, and journals trying to figure out what was wrong with her.
All the time this is going on, I am meeting every two weeks with special needs moms, all of whom have a child on the spectrum. They would say things their kids did and I'd say, "Aidan does that!" I'd tell them things Aidan did and they'd say their kids did that too. I even went so far as to say, "If there is a line you cross that says, 'Now you have autism.', Aidan is smacking her head on the line." I really said that. Over and over.
This is the first time we've talked openly about Aidan having ASD1. We are so immensely proud of her and what she has accomplished. She is in college full time and doing well. She has her brother's old job working at a gym and is getting her license this month. And my goodness, this girl travels to Belarus every year by herself, to run camp for special needs families! Most importantly she has learned all about herself through this diagnosis and how to manage herself in situations. And she is helping us learn right along side her.