Why I Chose to Medicate My Daughter

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For readers who may not know, my daughter has Asperger Syndrome, which is on the Autism spectrum. My daughter turns 13 this summer. She was only diagnosed a couple of years ago. As a reminder, children who are diagnosed with Autism are diagnosed early. Unfortunately, those on the Spectrum and are high functioning, rarely are diagnosed early unless there is a significant delay. In fact, many are diagnosed between the ages of 5 and 9. Baby Girl was diagnosed at 10.

But allow me to back up; especially those who might not completely understand the disorder, what it means for my family, or how medication plays into the whole story.

Baby Girl was born bright and early one Wednesday morning. Her birth was very similar to The Boy's in that it wasn't terribly long, it wasn't terribly traumatic for her or me, and my nurse midwife was very knowledgeable in allowing my body to do what it was meant to do and her and the other medical staff pretty much keeping their hands off the process. The result was a quick healing process for Mom and a relatively predictable routine for Baby Girl.

Except it wasn't.

It actually started in the hospital (and it's only now, looking back that it seems so obvious). Both of the kids slept with me in the room. I felt it was easier if they were with me to establish a feeding schedule and insure that my milk came in. Besides, I had read horror stories about babies being stolen from hospitals and I wanted to make sure that I left with the same kid I gave birth to. Call me paranoid; I was.

Baby Girl slept a lot after she was born. Where The Boy literally scooted up my stomach to eat after being born, Baby Girl went straight to sleep. On the rare occasion she woke up, she would fall asleep at the breast. Emptying both breasts at a feeding never happened (in or out of the hospital). I remember getting fussed at by the nursing staff that I needed to wake her up in order to eat. When I did, I got a fussy baby who fell asleep at the breast. Eventually, I left her predict her feeding schedule.

In the end, she predicted everything. Whereas The Boy would sleep anywhere when it was time for his nap, Baby Girl would only sleep in her bed. Not in a booster at a restaurant. Not in the car in her car seat. In her bed. End of story.

Baby Girl didn't talk. She would babble and her big brother would interpret what she wanted. I had always heard that younger siblings typically didn't talk as early as their older siblings because they didn't need to. However, at her 18 month check up, the pediatrician started asking me questions about her speech. When I told him she wasn't speaking much, if at all, he referred us to a wonderful early intervention program and we were blessed to work with amazing women who had Baby Girl signing and saying "b" within the first few visits.

Yay, she's talking and communicating! It's smooth sailing from here!

Only it wasn't.

I was thankful that I was able to stay home with both of the kiddos while they were very young. But, there came a point where, financially, we just couldn't do it anymore and I needed to go to work to help my family make ends meet. The Man Beast and I decided to put Baby Girl into Head Start.

For the first two weeks, she cried non-stop. I was told by her teachers that this was normal and she'd get used to it. Yes, she eventually stopped crying, but she was always frightened, shy, and generally fearful. Any (and I mean any) deviation from a normal schedule would send her reeling.

Still, the teachers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

After Baby Girl graduated from Head Start, I placed her in a lottery-funded pre-k center. Overall, she did well, but she was still frightened, shy and generally fearful.

Still, the pre-k workers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

Soon after, we moved to another city when The Man Beast got a promotion. The first day at school was dismal for The Boy and we ended up homeschooling for the next three years. That journey came to a close and The Man Beast and I enrolled the kiddos in public school in November of the boy's 4th grade year. Baby Girl was in 1st grade and it was her first exposure to public school. The classroom sizes were larger than she'd ever experienced and she was lost and frightened. More days than not, she had meltdowns. Her teachers (wonderful, wonderful women), I'm sure were at a loss of what to "do" with her because of this. I talk to teachers now and they mention how mature Baby Girl seemed. They admitted she was shy, but they never had to worry about her following the rules or doing what she was told.

They only thing they did have to deal with her were meltdowns she had due to other students not following the rules or doing what they were told.

Still, all of her wonderful teachers didn't see anything out of the ordinary.

And then comes that fateful weekend when Baby Girl went to a local amusement park with her Girl Scout troop. As part of the outing, the girls swam in the pools and slide on the slides in the adjoining water park.

I did not go with her on the outing and was interested to hear how her day went, but I knew something was wrong when the scout leader and co-scout leader pulled me aside and started asking me various questions.

Evidently, Baby Girl did not do well at all during the outting. When they got a snack, she went into a meltdown that what they were throwing away was wasteful. When it was time to change into her bathing suit, she went into another meltdown.

We were new to the Girl Scout family, so I don't fault them for the questions they asked. Were The Man Beast and I going through a divorce? Was there abuse in the home? Were there drugs or alcohol in the home?

Again, I do not fault the ladies at all for their line of questioning. In fact, I welcomed it because it showed they cared. Of course, my answered to their questions were, "No", but the question remained: why did Baby Girl act the way she did?

The next year, I admit, is a bit of a blur. We saw a few doctors, including psychologists. We finally found one that really seemed to listen and one, amazingly enough, Lynne seemed comfortable with.

Her first official diagnosis was Social Anxiety Disorder. A diagnosis didn't suddenly cure her, but it did make both of us feel better. Even as a young child, she had something she could hold on to and make limited sense of as to why she felt the way that she did.

Soon after she was diagnosed, I went to work for the school system and went back to school. I worked in a special education classroom where students had various diagnoses, including Autism. The lead teacher in the classroom had been working for quite some time and was very knowledgable in the field of Autism. (She later told me that the very first time she met Baby Girl, she knew she was on the Spectrum. She didn't tell me, she said, because she wasn't sure I would be willing to hear it).

After working with students with Autism and completing course work in college on Autism, I began to study more about the disorder. And the more I studied, the more I thought something else was going on with Baby Girl.

We went back to her psychologist (he had released us after six months of visits) and I explained to him that I felt like there was more going on in Baby Girl's brain than just social anxiety. He agreed that he would re-evaluate her and his conclusion was the same as mine - PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder - not otherwise specified)/Asperger Syndrome.

Now that he had a new diagnosis, he took Baby Girl back onto his caseload. He also changed his approach and how he coached her in how to handle things. It was actually Baby Girl who discussed medicine.

Her psychologist referred her to a psychiatrist. She disagreed with the Asperger Syndrome diagnosis, but fully supported the PPD-NOS one. She agreed with Baby Girl that medicine might help.

Baby Girl was relieved; I was worried.

Still, the Man Beast and I felt it was important for Baby Girl to not only have a say in her therapies, but also that she feel she had a sense of control - an element that had been lacking in her life and was, therefore, hugely important to her.

Her doctor placed her on a very mild anti-anxiety medication and requested a follow up in a month. We went back and the doctor asked Baby Girl how she was feeling.

"I still feel stuff."

When the doctor inquired further her meaning, we discovered that Baby Girl felt like she was abnormal because she had feelings and she was under the assumption that "normal" people not only didn't feel what she felt, but that they didn't feel at all.

The doctor was speechless and I was heartbroken.

The doctor reassured her that it was normal to feel things and the reason why she was on medication was to help her gain control of her feelings. (Baby Girl's mind is very analytical. She wants to know the "how" and "why" of her world in order to make sense of it. This helps her gain control.)

She's been on medication for two years now and due to various circumstances, has had to have adjustments made in her dosage. She seems both doctors on a monthly basis and talks with them quite openly about what is going on in her world. With their help, she is learning to cope with the everyday events of middle school. She takes her medication at the same time every night. It helps her sleep and helps her get through her day. She knows when she skips a dose because she feels the anxiety come back in a wave.

She will be the first to tell you that her medication helps her manage her life. It does not turn her into a zombie. It does not make her suicidal. It takes just enough of the "edge" off so that she can function.

She is a soon-to-be 13 year old girl. She experiences all the ups and downs of other 13 year old girls. She gets angry. She gets tearful. She gets confused. She gets hurt.

What her medication does, however, is allows her navigate the "normal" in her life while maintaining control. As a result, she has fewer meltdowns in school. She has made a handful of good friends, with whom she's quite candid about her difficulties and who, God bless them, help "talk her down" if she's having a particularly bad day.

Everyone's choice to medicate or not to medicate is an individual one and I encourage anyone considering the option to do their homework. But I hope that by sharing our journey, I've shed light on a controversial issue that has a happy ending.

Until next time,

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Does Modesty Perpetuate Rape Culture?

{Trigger Warning: The topic of modesty and rape is offered in a frank discussion as I see it from my perspective.}
I spend a lot of time on Facebook. In fact, many would say too much. But Facebook is where I choose to interact with family and friends, as well as stay up-to-date on popular trends. When it comes to news, I use Facebook much in the same way I use Wikipedia. I get the gist of the article or idea and then go seek more reputable sources for information. (You did know that Facebook is not a reputable news source, right?)

A couple of weeks ago, my news feed started blowing up about modesty and rape culture. Apparently, many believe that modesty perpetuates rape culture.

What is rape culture? What does it mean? I had to look it up (Again, Wikipedia is my starting point. But for the most part, everything I researched had the general consensus that this was an appropriate definition. So, I'm going with it)

According to Wikipedia:
Rape culture is a concept that links rape and sexual violence to the culture of a society,[1] and in which prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, and even condone rape
 Proponents of the modesty = rape culture movement say that modesty does several things:

1. Modesty puts the blame of rape on the victim.
2. Modesty focuses on the women.
3. Modesty makes the man blameless.

By simply doing a quick Google search, one gets many (many!) verses that are used for supporting modesty. And what I've found is that, yes, the Church's idea of modesty (as a purely human concept) does, in fact, focus on these facts, so much so, that it shares in the Secular World's view - a dangerous stance, to be sure).

Modesty puts the blame of rape on the victim.

There is a sad truth in our society - two, actually. One, rape isn't discussed. It's often swept under the rug. Two, if a woman was raped (because, men don't get raped), she somehow instigated it. She drank too much.  She dressed too provocatively. She was where she didn't need to be.

Modesty focuses on women.

Modesty is typically associated with women. A woman needs to be covered, being careful not to show too much skin. Men do not have the same standards put on them. Unless he is walking down the street without a stitch of clothing on, pretty much anything goes. (Although, there does seem to be some heavy controversy associated with the baggy pants look.)

Modesty makes the man blameless.

Men, apparently, are idiots. Watch any television sitcom and most of the laughs are at the husband's/man's expense. The classic scene: the wife is away (consider it a night out, a conference, or just grocery shopping) and the husband is clueless. Therefore, modesty suggests that the man is blameless in his actions as response to what a woman is wearing.

Despite all of this, I fully support the concept of modesty.

But I do not support it in a traditional sense. Rather, I propose that modesty is this:
John 7:24 
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” 
1 Corinthians 10:31
New International Version (NIV)
31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 
I purposely chose two verses that did not contain the word "women"or "men" because I believe modesty is an idea and a practice that applies to everybody.

To me, modesty goes beyond clothes.*

No, I do not believe that people should dress in ways that expose more skin than they should. I am not suggesting that girls/women wear clothes that make them sexless. (Meaning covering them so much that one can no longer distinguish if an individual is female). I am also not suggesting that a female cannot wear shorts or a tank top. She can wear shorts and a tank top without exposing an abundance of butt or breast. Even as a female, I find boobs in my face a little distracting.

But I do not let the guys of the hook here, either. I feel that there are certain places that you should wear a shirt. Aside from working in the backyard or at the pool, I feel boys/men should wear shirts. I absolutely believe in the "No Shirt. No Shoes. No Service." mentality.

Ultimately, however, modesty is about attitude/motivation. Are clothes meant to portray a message? Yes. Without a doubt. What that message is depends on the wearer. A man or a woman's Power Suit exudes a sense of wealth and/or success. If anyone sees someone dressed like this, they know that the wearer means business. And stores would have us believe that clothing is supposed to exude a sense of youth and sexiness, regardless of the age they are marketed to. (Anyone remember this little fiasco?)

I'm teaching both of my kids about modesty. My son is certainly not going to think it's okay to make sexual advances toward a girl if she's dressed a certain way. I teach my son not to rape. I teach my son to respect girls/women, even if their dress says otherwise. Is my son going to look? Yes. Is he going to think impure thoughts? Yes. Is that the fault of the girl? No. But his actions stop there.

I've gotten very lucky with Baby Girl in that she doesn't like wearing clothes that show too much skin. She's very modest, in and out of the house. She doesn't wear clothes - even clothes her father and I would allow her to wear - because she's not comfortable in them. I understand this because, as a teacher, there are clothes I no longer wear - anywhere - that I used to wear everywhere five years ago.

Clothes send a message. Regardless of the message, each individual is responsible for their own actions. Girls don't ask for "it" by their dress, but they also aren't stupid. They know someone is looking. They want to be saw. Guys know that they're being looked at, too. Eye Candy isn't limited to just one sex.

Modesty is a matter of attitude. How do you want to put yourself out there? Does a rape culture exist? Yes. It manifests itself in a number of ways: blameless attackers, off-color jokes, silence. But the idea of modesty in and of itself does not perpetuate rape culture. What a woman wears and how a man acts are mutually exclusive. People who think that woman "ask for it" are deluding themselves.

But at the same time, modesty has a purpose. Modesty goes beyond clothes and it applies to both men and women. Perhaps this is what we should be teaching.
Modesty is modesty.

Until next time,

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*I do have to go on record as saying that I do not let Baby Girl wear a bikini. I do not believe young girls should wear them as I do not believe they are "cute". As a victim of rape and sexual abuse, I am of the mindset that there are child preditors out there who are stalking children. (I suppose in this case, I am perpetuating rape culture. I see it as a way of protecting my daughter, much like I teach her about stranger danger. Is every adult she talks to out to get her? No. But she would be wise to be careful who she talks to.) 

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