First published on September 6, 2011.
My name is Michele Langlo and I’d like to tell you a bit about myself, but mostly about my son, Cody.
During his first six months of life, everything with Cody seemed to be normal up until it came time for him to sit up on his own and crawl. These were the first things we noticed that he did not do as quickly as other babies. And when he did finally start crawling, he dragged his head on the ground. He looked somewhat like a little, human bulldozer.
Then we saw the gradual loss of eye contact. He would not make eye contact when spoken to, not even by me.
He had finally started walking at 13 months but was terribly unstable. Falling down after a few steps was a constant problem for about a year.
He had started talking at a normal age, saying "mama," "dada," and the like. But that too, began to decline. Soon, words were replaced with grunts, babbles, crying and screaming.
The twos and threes brought raging tantrums if Cody did not get what he wanted. Attempts at discipline such as time-outs would result in all-night battles. Sometimes Cody would become too tired to fight anymore, and he would fall asleep in his chair. But that was a rare event. More often than not, I was the one who became too tired to keep battling. So I would hold him on my lap and rock him until his tantrum subsided. That was much easier on both of us.
When Cody was 3 years old, we had him evaluated for hearing loss because he wouldn’t respond when he was spoken to. We then had him evaluated for developmental delays. It was then the team of child psychologists and other child development experts who performed the evaluations said he met all the criteria for autistic disorder.
Cody was 10 years old when his teacher in the Special Education program at the public school he attended said we really needed to consider a psychotropic medication to help control his behavior. He had become very unruly and disruptive in class, and at home. The idea petrified me! I had heard the horror stories of the side effects these medications could cause, particularly those of the anti-psychotic class. Tardive dyskinesia, which is a side effect of many of the drugs, was at the top of the list of my fears.
But a highly respected child neurologist assured me there were now anti-psychotics which rarely caused tardive dyskinesia or any other severe side effect. But, first he wanted to try a blood pressure medication that had proven to have significant effect in controlling behaviors in children with autism and other cognitive disorders.
This medication worked well for a couple of years and then began to lose its effect. So Cody’s doctor added another medication to the mix, which worked well.
Along the way, Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder began to rear its ugly head. With the doctor’s advice we tried several other medications, all of which seemed to work wonders in the beginning but then depression would appear and end with Cody engulfed in a full-on, blind rage. After what was close to a heated debate, I stood my ground and said, "No more ADHD meds." The doctor conceded to my adamant demands.
Once all the experiments with medication had stopped, Cody slowly began to progress in the way of behavior control, communication, and eye contact. Finally, he began to enjoy life.
Cody's high school years were full of meetings with the Special Ed staff at his school. They found I was no push-over when it came to my son's education. When the subject of less desirable behaviors came up, they seemed to think more or different medications were the answer. But, I was not about to stand for that again.
I insisted they focus on more challenging learning tasks. They started a curriculum which included writing, computer skills, language skills and other things. Cody became much more compliant.
These were many of the struggles Cody, my husband, and I faced together as a family during Cody’s years from birth through high school. While we had overcome those struggles, new ones lay ahead.