Friday, May 8, 2015

Hopeful visit to an autism clinic

Today we had our visit to the Lurie Center, an autism center connected to Massachusetts General Hospital.  We had been waiting a long time for this appointment.  A lot of people had recommended this center to us back when Janey had her crisis in November, and I contacted them then.  To get the appointment, I had to fill out a lot of form, wait for them to be processed, and then I got a call to set a time, which was far in the future---but the future finally arrived!

Cheery Janey before the appointment
I was trying not to get my hopes up much for this appointment.  We've had several other such clinic visits at different places, and they have been mostly letdowns.  I didn't want to pin a lot of hopes on this one, but I must say I'm feeling good about it, and quite hopeful in a lot of ways.

The appointment mostly consisted of me talking to a psychiatrist specialist in autism.  Tony came along, and Janey was in and out of the room, as her patience for sitting around during long talks is limited.  I knew as soon as I started talking to the psychiatrist that she seemed to truly understand and ask the right questions about Janey.  In analyzing what was different in my head, I realized that it seemed like she had a lot of experience dealing with children like Janey---children on the lower end of the autistic spectrum, the children that wind up in hospitals and in psychiatric wards.  That was strangely comforting.  Often, even in the world of autism, I feel like an outsider.  I don't need peppy "resources" about camps Janey never could attend or ideas for games or books she could never read or play.  I need practical advice and help, and I felt like I got it there.

First, we got a prescription for a new medication.  This one will eventually replace the Risperidone that Janey has been taking for a long time.  The psychiatrist was very, very familiar with the various medications for kids like Janey.  We were pleased to hear her say that the psychiatrist Janey has seen up to this point has done quite a decent job with her medication so far.  However, he is a more mainstream guy, who I believe sees mostly kids with things like school anxiety.  Today's psychiatrist knows more about kids with severe mood swing, aggressive behaviors and self-injury, and we are hopeful about the new medication.  We did have a scare when our pharmacy said our co-pay would be $150 a month (for 30 pills!)  But we reminded them she has the supplemental state insurance, and for the first time, that worked well for us, and we didn't have to pay at all.  Out of pocket, the cost would have been $1124!  We joked that we certainly hope they are miracle pills.

Next, we talked about how we can get more help for Janey, and what we will do if she has another crisis.  The psychiatrist finally convinced me to consider in-home help.  I have been resistant to it, for many reasons---it is not respite, but rather someone working with Janey AND us, I am not terribly into having strangers come into my house, I don't feel like it would be helpful for our family, and a bit of "I don't need someone telling me how handle Janey".  But at this point, we are ready for any help we can get, and what most convinced me is that she told us it's the first step to getting almost any other kinds of respite style help.  So...okay.  We'll talk to someone about it.

If Janey has another crisis, we will take her to Mass General.  The psychiatrist said everyone in the ER there is trained to deal with autism, and she herself has connections to Bradley Hospital, where Janey went before.  She said it's possible that if Janey truly needs help quickly, she might even be able to get her directly admitted to Bradley.  I think that is what most made me feel a burden had been lifted from me.  I think I've been living in fear of Janey having another hospitalization, and of feeling completely alone in that, like it would be the end of the world.  The way this woman talked so matter-of-factly about it melted a frozen place in me.  She said it like it would be something we could deal with, something that is not shocking or horrible or unspeakable.  She said it like she expects it to happen at some point.  It's strange that would feel so freeing to me.  But I think I've been trying for a long, long time to fit Janey into a mold that doesn't fit her.  She is NOT mildly affected by her autism. Today I somehow felt for one of the first times that she is not one of a kind, that there are actually protocols in place for kids like her.  I'm not sure I'm explaining this as well as I can, but having a plan for what might happen makes it not feel like the world's worth thing.
Janey and William at Noodles and Company, eating out!

We will take Janey to her first follow-up appointment at the center in a few months, and in December we will see a geneticist, something I have long wanted to do.

The rest of the day was very nice.  We did a lunch out at an upscale fast food place, along with William, and Janey was quite good.  Then she went for a long ride with Tony and William to a guitar store.  She was cheerful almost all day.  And I am feeling better than I have in a while, feeling like there is a place, there are people, there are systems set up for kids like Janey.  I've always know there were others like her, thanks to all of you, but this is one of the first times I've truly felt there are others outside the world of us hardcore insiders who really get what we live, and that is a good feeling.

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