Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Making An Impact

One of the things I do here at TouchPoint is to go with Matt, the Community Liaison, to visit pediatricians. I look forward to these events because no two are alike and this provides an unique challenge. Some doctors are on the cutting edge of what autism is and others, well, aren't. With that being so these visits, known as lunch and learns, can be really talkative, or rather quiet. There was one lunch and learn that I said, "hello" and that was it and then there's others that I am the only one talking. While these events have been scattered through out the year I think I will remember yesterday's lunch and learn for some time to come.

The office we visited had several doctors and during the lunch hour they rotated in and out. This always is difficult for me because I have to repeat the same story twice and in my mind the second person in already knows what they didn't hear because I already said it once. So awkward!

I survived the awkwardness with a little prompting from Matt and the first three doctors in the room had some great questions, but the 4th one in was an unique challenge.

First, all the doctors at this practice knew what the autism spectrum was. I hate to say that because you'd think that would be the norm for 100% of the doctors, but it is not. Secondly, the doctors wanted to know more and this too should be the norm across the board. Anyway, the 4th doctor in had many questions about what TouchPoint is and what we do.

The conversation stayed on TouchPoint for some time and this doctor was having a hard time buying into the fact that people who are mildly on the spectrum should receive help. He was concerned about misdiagnoses and the like. He stated that it just made no sense that he has seen two different cases of autism, both families didn't receive any help, and one kid became much more functional than the other and there was no reason why.

Before you jump on the doctors case I was able to see it from his point of view. This doctor kept saying that there is no black and white test for those on the spectrum and he truly wanted to know why. At this point Matt was called by a doctor to talk to one of the staff in the office and the room emptied to just me and this 4th doctor. I felt the nerves kick in because this was the one-on-one conversation I yearn for. This became a game and I felt as if I were back at the video game store making a sale, but instead of selling a simple magazine subscription I was selling TouchPoint and the need for families to seek out the right information about autism.

This doctor was still hung up on the notion that diagnosing autism is a subjective affair. The ADOS was explained and this seemed to ebb the fire inside him a bit, but he still wanted to have a way to know if it truly would be the autism spectrum, or ADD, or any of the other things it could be.

I don't remember what the opening was, but for the longest time in the conversation I was waiting to use my cement theory. This doctor by all means wants to help and this conversational debate was him trying to grasp something that he can't simply see in an easy test like, say, taking a person's temperature. In my presentations I joke that, "We live in a society that wants everyone and everything to fit in a nice tidy box and the autism spectrum most certainly is not a tidy box." and this doctor is an example of that. Anyway, the opening was there and I stated the fact that so many great minds probably had Asperger Syndrome and that getting help early is going to going to maximize the chances that behavioral issues won't be an issue later on. If a child is ravaged with issues early on and never grows out of it and the school system casts them aside, well, then that means so much human potential will never be met.

With the last line of the previous paragraph I had a complete change in tone and was much more open to referring out those who may have Asperger Syndrome to get help.

Matt came back in (he had a conversation much like mine with someone else) and as we left I was truly shaking from thinking about the size of the impact that one hour had. This practice is quite large and while the doctors knew about the autism spectrum and did all the tests such as the M-CHAT they didn't know the importance of the early intervention. Before our lunch and learn the autism spectrum was just a 2D concept with little to no soul, but I am certain after our lunch yesterday the spectrum became a 3D concept that was better understood and the importance of what to do when they suspect the autism spectrum became clear.

I am so thankful I have this chance to make a difference. I am also thankful to come across doctors who want to know about the spectrum but are somewhat timid because of all the "misinformation" out there. I'm sure there are many more doctors out there who are in the same boat as the 4th doctor from yesterday. They want to know and they want to do the most good but with some information, right and wrong, about the spectrum they just can't grasp the spectrum. Yesterday I think Matt and I helped them grasp it and the best part of this story? There's another lunch and learn today at another office! But of course, I have no idea what to expect.


  1. ... No help needed?
    Aaron, if you ever need to convince someone if help with people on the spectrum is needed: Both a friend of mine and me became chronicly fatigued by lack of the right help, because nobody understood us. We were cast off as whiners and should just get along with the rest. We got good grades after all, so nothing was wrong, like your well-being was decided by school-grades.
    So... No help needed? If you ever again need to convince someone of that help IS needed, maybe it'll help to tell this story as an extreme example as to what might happen without help.
    Wouldn't you rather help and be sure, than wait and risking you're too late? That you missed an opportunity? I don't think so.
    You don't need to use this if you don't want to, but if you do want to... You can use my story, it's not a secret or anything.

  2. I know I might have eluded to in my earlier comments- but occupational therapists is another group you should do it with. As an aspie occupational therapist, I know the know how's on trying to get a group of them together. With the way that you are going about this, I will suggest you have at least a few OT allies in each state who are regulars at making autism presentations in OT conferences.