Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Scary start to our New Year...


Happy New Year!
I must admit that I am not sad to see 2013 go. It was a very painful and trying year for me. We were introduced to Autism and our life took a path that I never imagined we would have to travel. It was a year of lessons and many tests and trials. 

Unfortunately, this new journey will be with us in 2014 as well. But I am praying, and I am hopeful, that this year will be better.

2014 starts with us at the hospital. Natalie is scheduled for an MRI, EEG, deep Audiology and Genetic testing tomorrow. We will arrive at the hospital at 8:45AM and leave at 4pm. It will be a long day. I am thankful that my husband, Austin and my parents will be there to support me and Natalie. 

Natalie will be sedated throughout the entire process. I spoke to the nurse on the phone yesterday and she gave me some instructions. I thought that sedation was going to be given by an oral medication or a mask. However, because of the amount of hours that she will need to be under, the sedative  will be administer by IV. I almost fainted when the nurse told me this. Natalie goes crazy during her vaccinations, I can't imagine an IV. I asked if I could be there with her. The good news is that Allan and I can be in the room with her for all of the procedures.

Some of you may be wondering why Natalie is having all of this done. Well, up until now we have received what they call "educational diagnosis." It means that an autism specialist:
  • Observes Natalie and asks about her social skills, language skills and behavior and how she has developed and changed over time
  • Gives Natalie developmental tests covering speech, language, developmental level, and social and behavioral issues
  • Present structured social and communication interactions to Natalie and scores the performance
However, the neurologist asked me if I wanted a medical diagnosis/proof that she is autistic...and we agreed that we did want medical proof. The school board explained that if we get a medical diagnosis, Natalie will be entitled to triple the benefits from the school and therapists. So because we want to provide Natalie with all the tolls needed in order to succeed, we agreed to the medical diagnosis. Additionally, the neurologist is a little concerned because Natalie tends to regress. She learns new words and then, one day, she doesn't seem to remember those words at all. So the specialist wants to be sure that there isn't anything else going on that we can't see.

MRI


The MRI is used to gather more data and detail. It will help Natalie's doctors, therapists and educators in order for them to target what therapies and way of learning will benefit her the most in order to guarantee more success. 

Data from the analysis will also be able to provide a gauge of autism symptom severity in addition to simply distinguishing between autistic and typically developing children. Stanford University researchers say they have identified key differences in the brain gray matter of children with and without autism.
Using brain imaging, the researchers found that a specific network within the brain associated with social communication and self-regulation has a unique organization in autistic children.

EEG

I'm crying just looking at this picture...

The EEG works by recording electrical signals that come from brain activity. Several dozen electrodes are held against the scalp. An EEG determines if the patient’s level of alertness or consciousness is normal, if abnormalities exist in one specific part of the brain, if a patient has a tendency to have seizures or convulsions, and if a patient is likely to have a particular kind of epilepsy. Natalie's neurologist also explained that many times, when a child is non verbal it isn't because of autism. Instead, it may be because they are suffering from absence seizures. An irregularity in the brain's normal electrical activity causes absence seizures. Most absence seizures are less than 15 seconds long. It's rare for an absence seizure to last longer than 15 minutes. Absence seizures strike suddenly without any warning signs. If this is detected by the EEG, then Natalie will be given medication and she will start to talk normally, and very quickly. However, the neurologists says that this is something we would not want to see in the EEG results.

GENETIC TESTING


There are many reasons Genetic testing is beneficial.  Here are a few of them:
  • If a genetic cause for your child’s ASD is identified, it might lead to changes in his/her medical management.  
  • There might be recommendations for evaluation, testing or treatment that are specific to the genetic diagnosis, which you would only know about if your child were to have genetic testing.
  • Because genetic conditions are often (though not always) inherited, the diagnosis might have implications for other family members, who might also need to pursue specific medical follow-up.
  • Having a genetic diagnosis might give you more information about what to expect in terms of your child’s medical and developmental future. 
  • Having a genetic diagnosis might make it easier for you to connect with other parents or families of children with the same diagnosis. This type of support can be very valuable to families.

Audiology

Children with autism can have difficulty with learning and language that isn't the direct result of their autism, but of an additional condition known as Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). APD prohibits children from understanding and processing language in the average or expected way. Since this disorder can have many individualized symptoms and components, to get the proper treatment and instruction children must first be properly diagnosed by an audiologist and have a deep hearing test. 

So there it is, just a summary of all that will be done to Natalie tomorrow...and I am so scared. I am terrified for her. I hate that I can't explain or give her a clue as to what to expect or what is going to happen and why. She won't see it coming and that will make it scarier. The best I can do is be there and hold her hand and (pretend) to not be scared and be strong for her.

Please say a little prayer for us tomorrow.

Thank You.


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