Cooper: Dealing with potential labels

As the mother of two wonderful kids, I was so excited to watch each of them grow and develop into their own interesting personalities.  Cooper is my youngest, five and a half years younger than my daughter.  Cooper was a very quiet, solemn baby who very quickly got his legs under him – crawling at six months, walking at ten months.  We were such proud parents, feeling our little boy must really be something special.

Despite exhibiting upsetting behaviors at school, Cooper got along well with friends and family, including his older sister, pictured here.

At two years old, we recognized that Cooper was not talking the way his peers were.  His second year continued on; still no talking.  My husband and I were concerned.  Our first thought was, “Let’s change his daycare situation.”  We moved Cooper from an “in home” setting to a more vibrant, active arrangement where there were more children, less TV and more learning opportunities.  This did help: by the age of three, I finally heard “Momma” for the first time.

Along with Cooper starting to make some progress with talking, he also started exhibiting other more emotional, aggressive behaviors at daycare.  However, it did not seem to be a big issue with the daycare; consequently, we did not think much of it.  As time passed and Cooper graduated into a traditional school setting and attended Pre-kindergarten it became a huge issue.  Every day we got behavior reports listing so many upsetting behaviors: having tantrums, putting hands on others, disrupting class, crying, not staying in his space, hitting, spitting, screaming and hiding.  I was getting calls at work, being asked to talk to my son on the phone and calm him down and to come to the school and calm Cooper down.  Then the teacher suggested we meet.

I walked into the school to meet the teacher and found myself in a room with four people: the teacher, the principal, the Pre-k administrator and the school counselor.  My heart sank; I was sick at my stomach and this was all before the conversation began. I knew this was serious business.  I was quizzed about Cooper’s home life, my husband’s and my marriage, our family’s routine.  I was so taken aback by everything that was being asked of me.  Even worse,  all these behaviors that Cooper exhibited at school he rarely ever had at home.  The meeting ended, and I was walking around the room absorbing all that had happened when his teacher suggested to me that Cooper might be autistic.

Yes, this sweet boy, again pictured with his older sister, was struggling behaviorally at school.

WHAT???  At that point, I knew I had to take the bull by the horns and get to the bottom of whatever was going on with Cooper; someone had found a label for him and we couldn’t let that happen.  My husband and I discussed how to proceed.  We visited his physician and because Cooper was only four there was nothing that she could recommend short of seeing a psychologist, as he was too young for testing.  At this point, we were completely overwhelmed and thought we were just going to have to deal with whatever was going on until Cooper was old enough to be tested.

Autism, what does that mean?  My husband and I got on the internet and did some digging.  Cooper just didn’t fit the description, in our eyes.  He was so sociable in our home environment and with friends and family.  It did not make sense.  Yet, his teacher said he didn’t know any of his classmates’ names and he wouldn’t play with others.  We kept looking and we found all sorts of disorders that might fit some of his issues.  Still no answers, and the school days passed with countless notes, calls and teacher meetings and even a suspension . . .  in Pre-kindergarten.

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