One of the children I used to work with is in grade six now. He’s not autistic, he’s ADHD, and he has Developmental Coordination Disorder (DCD). I took him to preschool for two years, and later I babysat him and his siblings once a week after school. Of course, in my mind he will forever be about four years old, but he isn’t. He’s eleven years old.
I was lucky to be able to visit with him and his family last summer when I was in Calgary for a convention. He may be older, but he is very much the same as he was when I worked with him.
This boy is in perpetual motion (even on ADHD medication). He is incredibly tactile. He is imaginative. He is incredibly smart. And he is still very cuddly. We were sitting on the sofa, and he was bouncing off and on, moving from the seat to the floor and back again. At one point he started banging his head against the cushions. This is a person who desperately needs tactile input. He proudly showed me a story he wrote on the computer about some animals in the zoo, which he had illustrated with various images collected from around the internet. And when he was showing me his iPod, he was practically sitting in my lap.
At his school, he has an individual education plan (IEP) and an aide. Due to his DCD, he has difficulty writing by hand (it hurts to hold a pencil for a long time, and it takes a long time to get things written down, so he can’t keep up with his thoughts), so he needs his aide to write down what he thinks of for written assignments if he can’t use the computer. His parents have elected to keep the original autism diagnosis for school purposes, because a diagnosis of ADHD doesn’t qualify for any kind of assistance.
It is ridiculous that they have to pretend he has a disorder that he doesn’t have.
It is ridiculous that he doesn’t have constant access to a computer for completing his written assignments.
But at least he is getting an education that is appropriate for his age, his developmental level, and his intelligence.
And at least he has an IEP – something that ensures that he has access to all of the things that are his right as a Canadian citizen.