Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Autism?

 I know a lot of people are interested in how Joshua is doing, especially others who may be interested in older child adoption.  Overall, he is doing wonderful.  His adjustment has been unbelievably easy.  After our experience adopting Christina from Russia at age 12 years we were prepared to deal with a lot of difficult issues, but thankfully that hasn't been the case.  Joshua is really a great kid!

Joshua is a very obedient child.  He never gives us any trouble.  He does what we tell him to without complaint.  He always has a great attitude and almost always has a smile on his face.  He plays well with our younger kids.  He is especially kind towards Malachi (our gentlest and smallest child, even though Micaelyn is the youngest).  He is often found helping Malachi play some game or riding him around the yard on the bicycle.  He has eagerly played the sports we've put him in even though he had gotten no athletic experiences in China due to his congenital heart defects.  He loved basketball and did great in baseball (both sports were played through our church).  He even started playing football this spring, although we decided not to have him play this fall because he is much more interested in taking karate (which he and all the kids will be starting within the next couple of weeks).

Joshua has been such a great kid, and we couldn't be more pleased with how well he has handled all the many adjustments he's had to make to an entirely new life with a new family, culture, language, food, school, etc.  Unfortunately, we have started to realize he may have some issues to deal with beyond the normal adoption issues.  We have come to realize that what we at first believed was shyness/language barrier/adjustment issues is more serious.

For starters, Joshua obviously has problems making eye contact with other people.  It's nearly impossible to get him to look us in the eye.  His paperwork from China stated he would not make eye contact with people, so this is obviously not something new.

Furthermore, he obviously has communication issues, i.e. he doesn't talk.  At first we attributed this to the language barrier and his unfamiliarity with us perhaps exacerbated by a naturally quiet/shy personality.  However, at this point he really should be able to carry on a conversation with us, and yet he can go days at a time without saying much of anything to us.  It is truly painful to try to talk to him.  No matter how simple you try to make the conversation, how easy the questions you ask, you are lucky to get a few words from him.  He has been with us for 13 months now, and he had had several years of English in school before he came to us.  After having had several years of English instruction in school and being in a complete English immersion environment for over a year he really should be able to carry on a pretty good conversation, even if the English was a bit broken.  It's very obvious he understands most everything being said because when we watch movies he laughs at jokes that require a pretty good understanding of English.  He has even on occasion typed into the computer (in English) the words he wanted to say instead of trying to speak them, even simple 1 syllable words.  We have also had people speak to him in Chinese and they have said the same - he obviously understands what they are saying but won't speak back.  His paperwork from China says much the same - he doesn't talk much, prefers to answer questions with as few words as possible, very quiet, etc.  Obviously, even though the language difference hasn't helped, Joshua's communication issues existed before his adoption and go far beyond the normal language barrier/adoption adjustment issues.

Another thing we've noticed with Joshua is that he does not like to be touched.  He has gotten to the point he will allow the younger kids to lean on him somewhat if they are sitting in the recliner together playing their little Nintendo DS, but in general he does not want to be touched.  The hardest part about this is it means I cannot show him any physical affection as even a very quick hug would be too much for him.

There are other little oddities too.  For example, the way he always sets his stopwatch when brushing his teeth or his focus on certain things, e.g. video games (we were warned before we got him that his interest in video games went way beyond that of the normal kid his age, which was a bit difficult for us to accept since we had previously had a video game free home) or his interest in money (e.g. he wants to know the cost of everything, what people make, etc. - this may seem like a normal interest, but it goes a bit beyond the normal interest).  Although he goes along with whatever we ask of him without complaint, with respect to his own habits he is very structured, very disciplined, very ordered.  Of course, this is actually a benefit in many ways (e.g. school work, mowing the yard - he has his schedule and follows it so well there is never a need to tell him to do his work) so we don't mind it, but when taking into consideration his other issues (e.g. lack of eye contact, lack of speech) one can't help but think of autism.  Of course, it would be a higher functioning form of autism, but he definitely seems to fall somewhere on the spectrum.  We are hoping he has been here long enough now for the professionals to accept that his issues are due to something other than just the language barrier.  We can't help but be really concerned about his future because of his inability to carry on even the most basic of conversations.  Based on what we see in him now it would be very difficult for him to make it to college (he could never handle the interview) much less succeed in the career world, and without the ability to communicate dating and eventually marriage is also extremely unlikely.

So hopefully soon we will have a team of professionals with a plan of action in place to help Joshua overcome his issues.  However, we will continue to focus on the positives, and with Joshua there certainly are plenty of positives!  Although it's hard to not be able to have a conversation with him or give him a hug, he is a great kid who we dearly love.  I often find myself thinking about how hard we had to fight our adoption agency to adopt him (because they don't allow families to adopt 2 children at one time).  I can't believe an agency committed to finding "a family for every child" made it so hard for us to be this child's family considering without us he would have aged out without ever being adopted.  As awful as it would have been for him to spend the rest of his life without the love of a family, with his issues it also would have been extremely difficult for him to have ever succeeded on his own in China.  We are ever so thankful for all those who prayed for us to be able to adopt him and ever so grateful to God, the Mover of mountains and Maker of miracles, for bringing him into our lives.
It is almost impossible to get a good picture of Joshua.  He absolutely will not look at the camera.  We were able to get a few family pictures with him looking decent this past weekend in Gatlinburg (as seen in a recent post) only because we bribed him with money.

Pushing Malachi on a swing.  He is always very good with the younger kids and especially helpful to Malachi.

2 comments:

The Kings said...

I will be praying for Josh.
I am so happy to see this update and that he is doing so well in many ways.

Lori

Paula said...

It sounds like he has Asperger Syndrome like my son.
Asperger's children are so special! We are blessed! :)