|just do it||
12 November 2002
|Okay, so your kid has a problem. He wont talk or she wont look people in the eye and obsessively opens and shuts doors or he keeps pummelling other kindergarteners on the playground for no apparent reason. Get thee to a specialist! Get services in place! Immediately! Do not pause, do not wait, do not wonder if a miracle will suddenly manifest and presto, magic, the strangeness will evaporate and your kid will be fine.
Okay, so youve gotten your child to a specialist, done an assessment or three. Someone whispers autism. You recoil. You run away, fast as your legs can carry you. You accept some services but not too many and god knows you dont fight for more because that would mean theres something really wrong.
Get over it.
I know a woman whose son while clearly not on the spectrum has articulation problems. At age almost-four, I can understand one word in five. He drooled until well past three. He also has little awareness of his body in space, will cannon into you with the force of a small but friendly hurricane. Shes taken him for one no, two speech evaluations but still doesnt believe his problems are anything to worry about. My take? This child doesnt need speech as much as he does occupational therapy. Hes not going to get it. Hell be lucky if he gets any help at all.
I know a woman whose daughter is moderately autistic. After her first IEP when the girl turned three, she said "Oh, were not getting any occupational therapy, they said she didnt need it," and "Oh, were only getting one hour a week of speech therapy, they said that was enough." She didnt like it but wasnt going to make waves by asking for due process. Who suffers by her silence? Who do you think? Her daughter.
I know a man who says his son is at the extreme high end. Of what, he wont say. He never says the word. Instead, he talks like a preschooler learning the alphabet "We call it A," he tells me. Because, you know, if he said the word, he might have to admit his son had well that. And that would be bad, right?
His son, by the way? Is not at the extreme high end. Yes, he is fairly mildly affected. Yes, hes high functioning. Yes, hes improving. But he has serious deficits nevertheless. Does his fathers whitewash help him sleep better at night? Maybe so. Does it help his son? Doubtful.
Did it hurt when I first put the word autism next to Damians name? Of course it did. Hurt like hell. Still feels like a disconnect. I know my child, I know his warmth, his silliness, the intent way he asks questions and then uses the information days later in unexpected ways. I know my child. Hes a great kid. But I didnt fight the autism label. Because it doesnt matter what you call this as long as you call it something. As long as you get treatment and lots of it and early, early, early. If you call it autism at age two or three, if you heap on hours of one-on-one therapy and carefully supervised group interaction, then maybe, just maybe, you wont have to call it autism or alexia or Aspergers at age twenty or thirty.
Im learning, though. You cant tell people to get their children a pile of services. You cant spill out all the information stored in your own head like a chipmunk stores nuts in his overstuffed cheeks. You cant force-feed your own passion into someone elses psyche. Love of a child is a powerful force, but fear is powerful too. And you cant take someone elses fear away. You can only hope that fear goads them into action sooner rather than later.
I cant change the world. I can only help my own child. And hope that my example makes at least one other parent a little less afraid of doing the same.
copyright 2002 Tamar