Sunday, November 9, 2014

Sometimes there's more to autism than just autism...

Most parents of autistic children will tell you that the worse part of raising an autistic child isn't their autism, it's the comorbid disorders that often accompany their autism. Most diagnosed children have at least one comorbid disorder accompanying their autism, some have several. My son being one of the ladder. When my child was younger I was so focused on his autism that it was hard for me to see that these side diagnoses are not just "part of his autism" but in fact completely separate and seemingly unrelated conditions.

Common Comorbidities to Autism: 
  • Gastrointestinal Disorders 
  • Sensory Processing Disorder 
  • Seizures and Epilepsy 
  • Intellectual Disabilities 
  • Fragile X Syndrome 
  • ADHD 
  • Bipolar Disorder 
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder 
  • Tourette Syndrome and other TIC Disorders
  • General Anxiety Disorder 
  • Tuberous Sclerosis 
  • Clinical Depression 
  • Visual problems
  • Explosive Behavior Disorder
  • Sleep Disorders 
  • Childhood Speech Apraxia
  • Nonverbal Learning Disorders
  • Schizophrenia
  • Anxiety Disorders
Much like the all too true saying, "If you've met one autistic individual you've met one autistic individual... No two autistic individuals are the same." No two autistic individuals present with the same comorbid disorders.

For example,

Here are the Comorbidities Accompanying My Son's Autism:
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Severe Sleep Disorder
  • Explosive Behavior Disorder
  • Childhood Speech Apraxia
  • A TIC Disorder
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • ADHD
  • Mild Mental Retardation
  • Epilepsy
  • Sensory Processing Disorder
While that may seem like an excessive number of diagnosis for one child, in our world it's somewhat typical. Each diagnosis has it's own fear associated and it's own course of treatment to follow, whether it be doing nothing or involving doctors. Each parent has their pick that drives them the "craziest" and their pick for which troubles them the deepest. The one among my son's that drives me the 'craziest' is his sleep disorder...

For one, we've never been able to pinpoint a name for it but we have had numerous doctors say it's the worse they have ever tried to treat, that's a fact. Second, it bothers him greatly when he doesn't get a full nights sleep [which is hardly ever]. He has trouble thinking clearly during the day, he's moody, and he loses his temper with his brother more often when he hasn't gotten 3 hours of sleep or more. Third, It wears on me to the max. He's a tween now, if that gives you an idea of how long I've been doing this. I firmly believe that 90% of the time I function on the level of a preschooler due to lack of sleep.

Our efforts to correct his sleep disorder have stretched to the extreme at times. We have tried so many medications it's not only ridiculous it's intimidating. We have put him through countless sleep studies and I've filled out so many sleep logs that the thought of them makes me sick. In the end we've been left with more questions than answers. We've been able to distinguish a pattern in his sleep and we now know that he does not have a normal REM cycle; however we do not have a single clue as to how we can effectively treat it.

My Son's Normal Sleep Pattern:

  • He goes 5-6 days with 1.5- 4.5 hours of sleep a night
  • If he ever sleeps over 3 hours he will not sleep for the following 2 days in the cycle, but it continues
  • On the last day he becomes violent at night and sleeps the least
  • On the 7th day he crashes for a whole day
All though I do have to say that as he's aging his sleeping pattern is starting to even out, some days I don't think it's happening fast enough though. Other days, as I sit up at 4 am alone watching him draw, it seems like less of a problem and more of a gift. Of my son's comorbid disorders the one that troubles me the deepest may seem a tad odd to some but it's his TIC disorder. He recently developed some pretty outstanding TICS that forced us to realize he's had them since he was a toddler. His newest one is a harsh, constant clearing of the throat. I'm worried he's going to hurt his throat but nothing we try helps ease the problem he's having with it. 

My point is, whether you are a parent of an autistic child or the grandparent of one... the aunt or the uncle of one... even if you have no tie to autism in your life what so ever: it's important to realize there's more to autism than just autism. There's a whole world of disorders and syndromes that these children and their families cope with. There is a whole world out there beyond what the news and online articles tell you.

For links to Brooke's books or Brooke's articles check out these links: 
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