The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) will be released in May. Yahoo is featuring first-person stories from Americans who are diagnosed with some of the most common mental health disorders in the United States. Here's one story.
FIRST PERSON | My son began showing signs of autistic behavior when he was 2 years old. This included hyperactivity, hand-flapping, rocking, and a limited vocabulary. We brought our concerns about him to his pediatrician when he was 3.
The pediatrician, while noting his immature behavior, didn't think there was anything abnormal about him. When he was 4, he wasn't able to put more than three words together. A pediatrician at Walter Reed Army Medical Center gave him a referral. It was at Walter Reed where he was diagnosed as having Pervasive Development Disorder (PDD). The recommendation was to get him into an academic setting as soon as possible.
We enrolled him in preschool. Initially we resisted putting him on medication, but that seemed to be the only effective way to control his symptoms. We started out with Ritalin and then used a number of different medications over the years. These medications controlled, but didn't eliminate, his bizarre behavior. These medications may have contributed to his obesity.
We got him involved in sports for "special needs" children, including Special Olympics. As he grew older, he started making his own decisions. When he figured out he was a boy, he decided he didn't want to be a cheerleader any longer. Then, when he turned 18, he figured he was too old to play sports.
His condition is most pronounced in his speech and language. Communication usually involves him repeatedly asking the same questions, while ignoring the answers. In his writing, he has great difficulty getting the correct tense and he commits more than the occasional grammatical error. He has written entire compositions about a past event and consistently used the present tense.
His symptoms are such that the question of a stigma attached to his condition is irrelevant. Strangers who come into contact with him know almost immediately he is not "neurotypical." Others, including school children, are patient and understanding of him. There seems to be a great deal of awareness about the autism spectrum and special-needs children in general.
- Mental Health