I love to talk to my sister about autism and what is happening in schools. she was a special education teacher for years, and now works as a behavior professional across several schools. With one of us immersed in private practice and the other in the public schools, it is interesting to see where things align and where our perspectives differ.

Last month, she asked my thoughts about one of the students in one of her schools. This fourth grade student had been diagnosed with autism and her IEP mainly consisted of social work support. Academically, she was doing fine, and her parents decided they wanted to stop her IEP and all support services and essentially just not tell her she was autistic. This made my heart so, so sad.

One of the messages I have heard over and over from adults who have been diagnosed with autism as adults is the persistent feeling of not fitting in and not knowing why. Many of them have brought up their concerns about autism with friends, family, and other health care providers, and they have often been dismissed or invalidated.

In many of these cases, parents were not intentionally deceiving their children or ignoring things they knew were problematic; however, the end result is still the person feeding invalidated, unsupported, and confused. Parents often may not recognize the extent to which their children experience sensory sensations more strongly or how their social and emotional function is impacted, especially with children who internalize–and suffer quietly while having higher and higher levels of anxiety and depression. Working with clients of all ages (ranging from toddlers with no words to adults in their 60s who have raised families, held jobs, and wondered to themselves why things seem so much harder for them than others) has given me a really unique perspective and understanding for the experiences that people may have when they have not yet understood or been able to describe it.

 

The biggest takeaways I’ve gotten from this in the last year are that children are not able to articulate that what they perceive is different from others, and that not understanding WHY their experiences and efforts might be different from others. And in the absence of understanding, people make their assumptions about why they are having difficulty with certain things, and these assumptions are usually not kind—they think they are not trying hard enough, they think they are doing things wrong, they think they might be going crazy. And peers aren’t any kinder. Parents might get tripped up on HOW to do this (and next month I’ll post a blog with some tips about this!) but the most important thing is just to do it. Your child will thank you for it.

Dr. Jessica Myszak has had over 10 years of experience performing psychological evaluations with children and adults. She offers both in-person and telehealth evaluations. In addition to seeing clients on the Chicago North Shore, she is able to work with families who reside in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin! If you are interested in learning more about potentially working with her, you can visit her website here or email her here to get the process started.