My daughter got a recent diagnosis of PDD, at age 2 1/2, going on 3. Her developmental pediatrician said he normally doesn't diagnose at an early age, but since we're moving interstate so close to her 3rd birthday, having a diagnosis of PDD will help us get services set up pretty quickly up there without jumping through hoops. He said he was fairly confident that she does have an autism spectrum disorder (delayed language, sensory issues, social communication difficulties, etc.). I am in touch with a couple people up in the state where we're going, but I'm nervous about dotting my I's and crossing my T's and all that. Exactly what will the diagnosis of PDD do? Will it definitely get her into a developmental preschool? She'd get in if the school system tests her. She's way behind age level for language, and she'd get in for that alone. Will the diagnosis help get her in quicker and make the state move quicker?
I don't know about the services stuff. Maybe he didn't come straight out with an autistic spectrum disorder because she is younger? Professionals tend to differ on whether a diagnosis = label is a good or bad thing. It maybe because she is just at that age where children start to become more social and interactive with other kids and there is a chance that your daughter could develop in this area and bring her out of a diagnosis of an autistic spectrum disorder. I do know that it is quite common for a diagnosis to change. I think you just have to be honest whereever you go and tell them autism is suspected and that she was originally assessed quite young because you were about to move state. Could you ask the doctor that diagnosed her to send you a letter stating her diagnosis and saying something like in his opinion she needs re-assessing sometime within the next year to see if her diagnosis remains PDD or ASD.
As far as schooling goes (Preschool) it will speed things up a tiny bit with the PDD Diagnosis, but in all honesty..if the school is a good program, they will still do their own testing. School systems DO NOT need a medical diagnosis to offer their services. They still do their own testing so that they can work with your daughter and see what avenues and areas they need to make more of a priority. Also, they need to do their own testing to see if they feel she can withstand a mainstream system of if she needs a more individualized program that is segregated. There are many options that schools offer...i.e. Mainstream...where they go to a regular school and into the regular classroom and just have a specialized teacher in there to help along the way; an Autism program where they have her in a classroom with only other spectrum disorder children so that it is all one on one and solely geared toward helping her cope also with specialized equipment and a OT/Speech Therapist on hand, and there there is a program that is half and half...both mainstream and autism prog. based. Usually they start their day in with the Autism prog. and then incorporate some activities in with the mainstream classroom as well slowly and with great caution. This is great because she can interact with other kids, yet when she needs to "let lose" or be alone or whatever her comfort zone may be...they can do that for her as well. So likely, what your doc meant is that it would help to the point of schools and professionals seeing that you are not just a "paranoid mom" and that you have already took the steps to have your child evaluated and your concern was validated.
As for the PDD...Many professionals do that because of your daughters age. The label of "Autism" is something that is irriversible and so with a child so young they tend to take a precautionary step by doing the "minor diagnosis" first and then re-evaluate later on (in about a year). It is frustrating to say the least, especially when early diagnosis (they say by 4yrs of age) is so critical in therapies and regimens; but yet, a child that young is still developing so much and can easily just be "behind". PDD leaves an "out" basically so once evaluated again at a later date, it can be "reversed" if need be; but also can confirm a true diagnosis easier as well because they have something to go off of.
I really hope they don't put her in a solely autistic classroom. Not to say that would be bad for every child with autism, but in our daughter's case, it might be. She currently does Sunday school at church with her own peer age and behaves fine. She also goes every other week to a classroom setting with kids her age and plays and interacts with them fine. She does get special attention, though, and has an older child sit next to her and help her out in these environments. We have noticed that when she's with people who don't interact with her, then she stays in her own world. If she's with people who make her come out of her own world, she does better socializing with assistance. One fear that I have is that developmental preschool, if placed in the wrong classroom, will make her regress instead of progress. The developmental pediatrician was also afraid of this. He did diagnose her PDD, but I'm also glad he's done a complete evaluation of her with his own team of therapists and himself, to find out what her strengths and weaknesses are, and what sort of environment would be good for her. That way I can be a better advocate for my daughter, and I can have documentation from a medical professional stating what he feels would benefit our daughter the most.
I do not trust the school system completely. You get in a great school system, you are great. You get in a lousy school system, or happen to have a lousy teacher or lousy evaluator, you can have problems. There are so many good teachers and great therapists out there, but there are also all the so-so ones as well. So I am glad that we have information and an assessment from a developmental pediatrician that we picked out, that we trust, and that he was so highly recommended by everyone and we had to be wait listed several months before seeing he was top rated.
I would not worry too much about the placement of the classroom, this is all completely done wiht your consent. You go to each eval for the IEP, you are present with all their testing and can see how sincere they are when they interact wtih your child, and YOU do have a say in which program your child is placed in. When I went through it, just a month ago, they told em their feelings and I told them mine and we atlked through it all very well. They felt my son was functional enough to be in both programs at the same time and have the "best of both worlds". It would be VERY rare that they would do "solely mainstream" and in the case of your daughter not even being diagnosed with "Autism" but PDD instead, they would likely agree that she should NOT be soley in the Autism program either. They can recognize that. Some schools do not even have the Autism programs...so if you are fortunate to have a school close by with that program, then it shows they are well trained and qualified and from my experience, they do listen to your opinion as a parent is the best judgement for a child. PDD is such a "grey area" that I think they really rely on a parents input and other evals as well to get the "full picture" of your child and the course of action to take.
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