Saturday, May 14, 2011

Please Don't Label My Child

So I know the title of this post seems like a copycat of the book I'm reading right now, Please Don't Label My Child: Break the Doctor-Diagnosis-Drug Cycle and Discover Safe, Effective Choices for Your Child's Emotional Health, BUT...I am at the point now where I am screaming the exact words in my head on a daily basis to those around me who want to give a diagnosis to my son Park.

As many of your know, this summer marks the year anniversary we first heard the dreaded autism word from our son's pediatrician.  For those of you who have not, a quick recap:

We took our son in to see his pediatrician because we were worried he might have strep throat.  We left with the medical advice to seek professional help for our possibly autistic child.  Park has been involved with the country's Early Intervention program ever since that day, has had specialists observe him and tell us that they don't think we need to worry about autism and have seen a remarkable progression in his behavior.

HOWEVER, at a routine visit to see his pediatrician a few weeks ago (the first since last summer), we were told again that she suspects he has autism.  To get into more detail, this is how the visit went:

The morning of our appointment, I geared Park up for his first doctor's visit in almost a year.  I explained to him that his doctor is really nice, that she cares a lot about him and that she is very fun.  When we got to the clinic, Park was a little nervous about having to take his clothes off in a cold room while strangers came in and out talking to us.  But when his sweet pediatrician walked in, I reminded him of her and told him to go ahead and say hello.  Instead of being nervous around a stranger like he normally would in this situation, Park walked up to her and sat down on the floor where she sat.  He began talking to her (which to anyone other than my husband and I is mostly not understood) and asked about her stethoscope and her pen that has a light.  She sat on the floor with him for about 5 minutes while asking us questions.

Doctor: "Does he play with other kids?"
Me: "Yes, he loves to."
Doctor: "What does he like to play with?"
Me: "Everything (trains, trucks, the dogs, Dad, the neighbor cat, anything)!" 
Doctor: "What does he do when he plays with his trains?"
Me: "I know what you are getting at and no, he doesn't line things up repeatedly.  He plays with his trains like any other normal 3 year old boy."
Doctor: "I still think he is autistic.  It's not screaming at me, but I do."
Me: "Why do you think that?"
Doctor: "Because it seems as though he has his own agenda."
Me: "What do you mean?"
Doctor: "He wasn't afraid to come up to me.  He quickly was interested in my stethoscope and my pen."
Marshall: "He is interested in everything and how it works."
And so on....

At first, I was frustrated and sad and worried all over again.  I had it in my mind that we would have him tested again before he began school in the fall.  I complained and vented to my family and friends.  Then I let her news set in and became a little angry.  Why was she so quick to judge my child on the 5 minutes of observation?  Why didn't she ask other pertinent questions such as, Is Park sensitive towards other's feelings?, Does he interact with other children his age?, Does he pretend play?, Has he progressed this past year with language and behavior?, What does Early Intervention say about his progression?

Had she asked those questions, I would've explained to her that Park is the sweetest boy I could ever have asked for.  He loves his Mommy, Daddy and brother so much.  He especially LOVES his little baby brother.  He is a great helper, and is so gentle just like we told him to be.  He runs and laughs with other kids and with us.  He is a jokester.  He has a sense of humor.  He is always giggling and smiling.  He has slept well in his bed for naps and bed time for over a year.  He loves to read books.  I could go on and on.

I tried to tell her about his dairy intolerance.  I brought his lab work in to show her and told her about the huge difference in his behavior since we removed dairy and then gluten from his diet.  She didn't even look at the lab work.  She dismissed it as not credible "science".  I instantly felt disrespected as a mother.

I have done so much to get the help I was told my son needed.  I have had him tested in which the specialist kind of laughed and said we had nothing to worry about unless he made no progression in his language in a year.  He doesn't hit, he rarely ever gets frustrated.  He listens well.  I thank my lucky stars how easy he is and what a sweet little guy I have.

I've also been incredibly fortunate to have found professionals and friends who just happen to be mothers as well that support me in my belief that diet and his environment caused his difficult behavior in the past.  What I cannot wrap my head around is how medical professionals in the western world are so quick to dismiss that we are over-diagnosing children and so quick to judge those little 2-3 year olds based on the norm or what our country believes to be how a child should behave.  I mean, yes, my son has a major speech delay.  But he speaks all day long.  Everyday yields more understood words.  And in the past, he had very questionable behavior.  But that is in the past.  He no longer displays those behaviors.

(Right now, Park is sitting in his little chair and pretending to read one of Mommy's novels)

So what if Park likes to ask about electronics?  Is that wrong to be inquisitive at such a young age?  His Daddy is a genius with he most likely inherited that trait.  And so what if he asks a lot of questions?  Have you met his Mommy?  People get annoyed at my questions.  Since when is it questionable behavior or "wrong" that a child displays individualistic behaviors?  We in our culture are so quick to assume that when a child doesn't "fit in" with the norm that he/she is "defective" in some way.

(Right now Park is taking his "dirty" clothes and toys downstairs to be washed in our washing machine)

My husband and I are proud of our son.  He is happy and healthy.  He is outgoing and sensitive.  He is smart and loving and so much fun to be around...even though he is bold, doesn't always listen and is Mr. Mischievous these days:)  So what if he isn't talking as well as he should.  It's not like he is never going to speak.  I am glad that we had these experiences this last year with doctors and specialists.  I've learned so much about the importance of health in my family, I've learned more about myself and how to trust my own instincts when it comes to the well being of my family and these experiences have enabled me to discover safer, healthier choices for Park.

~Mommy Bridget


  1. Wow. Sounds like you need a new pediatrician. That would be totally unacceptable to me, especially if you have already taken him to see a specialist and they have already told you that you have nothing to worry about.

    I'm so sorry you guys are having to deal with such an incompetent doctor.

  2. It sounds like you are raising a wonderful, sensitive child. I'd say, unfortunately, if you have had second, third and fourth opinions which counter your pediatrician's, it sounds like you need a new pediatrician, one who will listen to both you and your son instead of herself.

  3. Thanks Rune. I did realize after this visit that it was time to find a new ped. Unfortunately, it is really difficult to find a pediatrician that is not only respectful but one that also believes diet can affect behavior. It makes me sad that I have yet to find one.

  4. Bridget, are there any pediatricians that are considered naturopathic or homeopathic in your area? I would think such a doctor would be more likely to understand and believe that diet can help a person. I agree with previous posters that it may be time for a new pediatrician. I strongly believe that sometimes we as parents have to listen to OUR gut instincts. On a different note, reading your post made me wonder if your child will later be labeled 'gifted'. Highly intelligent children would also be quickly interested in the stethoscope and how it works. Kids can be very intelligent and be speech delayed. I hope these words from a stranger help you to feel some comfort.

  5. Bridget, I'm glad to hear that you're learning a lot and trusting your mother instincts rather than completely trusting the opinion of a health professional. It's great to question their opinion, but also use it to make our own decisions. These days, health professionals are quick to label children and diagnose them with some "disorder" just for being different or having too much energy. And as soon as they do that, they want the kids to be on meds. I'm glad that you're taking a stand. My husband and his mom actually went through a similar scenario. As a child, they thought something was wrong with him and wanted him on meds, but his mom disagreed. She made some good decisions: homeschooled him a few years here and there, had him in private school and public school as well. And now, he's almost 30 and perfectly "normal." Sending my best to you. :)

  6. Thank you everyone for all of your kind, supportive words. I have found a specialist in holistic health and have listened to her advice with Park's diet...and have found positive results! I feel so fortunate to have so many wonderfully smart mothers in my life who have given me such great, insightful advice with Park's health as well as my own.
    Big motherly hugs to you all,
    Mommy Bridget

  7. Hey! I just want to start off by saying how amazing I think you are and that I am so proud of all you have done for your little man.
    I too think you need a new pediatrician!! My ped is amazing, his name is Peter Moskowitz. I would go to a nature path, but without insurance coverage I can't swing it. He is very sensitive and so cute with the kids. He always listens to me and let's me make the decision. He is also way cool about diet and lets me take the lead with a modified vac. schedule. Some of his nurses seem a bit uptight over it, but all I have to do is say I have discussed it with Pete and they drop it. I have referred all of my family to Pete and we all adore him.
    Good Luck!!
    Much love,

  8. Lena, I love you! You are so sweet and wonderful and a great role model to us all. I would love your ped's name. I'll get it from you soon!
    Thank you again,

  9. I had the opposite happen with my child. His pediatrician did not feel my son may have Aspergers. I worked with students on the Autism spectrum and saw all the signs from 6 months of age. I followed my gut and was right. He received the services early on.

    It is very important to follow your gut instinct. I agree a Holistic doctor is a breath of fresh air. Last year my son struggled with new concerns: asthma, allergies and ADHD. We are changing his diet and using natural supplements to help him.

    I saw two books in the doctors office and ordered both the book you mentioned along with: "Healing the New Childhood Epidemics: Autism, ADHD, Asthma, and Allergies: The Groundbreaking Program for the 4-A Disorders". I hope they will have valuable information as we seek natural ways to help our son through the new challenges he is experiencing.

    Best wishes to all,

  10. Joan, I appreciate you telling your story. While I trust that pediatricians have our children's best interest in mind, they aren't always the best at telling us what choices to make for them. Good for you for doing what you feel is best for your family!