I have been telling key people about Gabe’s autism diagnosis. These are the people that have the need to know, they are friends, family and people at work. A recurring theme after they are told, is always to ask if I already have a second opinion. It is an question I find hard to answer and the reason is simple. At least in the system in Malaysia, there are multiple people that you have see once suspected of autism. Your first call would be, hopefully, a pediatrician. Once she is convinced, in my case after running a M-CHAT test, she referred us to the pediatric psychologist. The child psychologist has the final say in whether the child is autistic. Then we are also referred to the audiologist, ENT, ophthalmologist and the occupational therapist. These other specialist will check if Gabe has other issues, that may look like he has autism.
So maybe I could get another child psychologist and see second opinion? Hold that thought for a while.
This is where the dilemma starts. By seeking a second opinion – remember that we already went through a barrage of specialist – what are we looking for? consolation that Gabe is fine. Maybe he is, looking at how good he is at angry birds. Besides he is just 3 and there is no way doctors can determine for certain that he has autism. Well what if second opinion (that says he is fine) is wrong 2 years down the road and he does have autism. Then we have wasted good 2 years that can be used to intervene.
Another recurring theme about autism rehabilitation is to start early, that is what we are being told again and again by various people. So even if Gabe does not have autism, it is good to start early since the early intervention and therapy does not harm normal growth. Starting earlier means the child has more time in the rehabilitation and therapy. I come to understand the aim is to get the child into a normal stream school. So as the child nears schooling age, the therapy stress would be different. So if they start early, they really have a head start.
My quick summary based on the process that we have been through so far – once you suspect the child of slow development get him checked out. Some doctors can recommend therapy as early as one year old based on eye contact. I don’t think second opinion really matters – are we trying to rehabilitate the child or making the parents feel better. Lastly, start early so that you do not waste precious formative years for the child to go through therapy. The stress is different when the child nears schooling age and still cannot communicate and socialize.