Friday, March 5, 2010

The Dream

The first month after the diagnoses I kept having a recurring dream.

I would walk down a long hallway of closed doors. Upon reaching the last door I would open it and peer in. The room was lined with floor to ceiling cabintery. Upon the shevles were hundreds of home movies - birthday parties, little legaue games, sleep overs, prom dances, college graduations, weddings. Suddenly, I would smell it. Paralyzed and voiceless I would stand in horror. The flames would silently creep up the walls, the window treatments, the shelves. Burnt plastic. Each night, I watched my hopes and dreams burn.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Diagnosis

I'll never forget that Wednesday morning when the psychologist, with the long Greek name, rushed into my home. Quickly, she unpacked a small computer and began to ask and document a series of developmental questions. What was Joe like as a baby? When did he first smile ? When did he crawl? Is he pointing? Does he engage in repetitive play? Blah blah blah blah. She was like an adult from Charlie Brown.

Every now and then she would glance up at Joe, and then she would return her attention to her computer, to her incessant typing. I didn’t even know her, but I hated her. I sat there with my husband by my side - like the good little mother – obediently providing all the dates and data.

After about 20 minutes of questions she attempted to play with Joe. Toy after toy she was unable to engage him. When he finally did find a toy of interest the therapist would call his name or make a loud noise and he would fail to look up. I kept thinking to myself, “She’s not animated enough, she’s not doing it right.” But when the therapist would take the object away he would simply move on to another one. When she would ask him a question - he would ignore her. I stood there numb – motionless- this was not real - this was not my son.

My son responded to his name, my son smiled, my son wanted to be around his family. My son loved kids and loved playing with his brother. My son did not rock, or spin things, or line things up. He could care less about wheels or flashing lights. He loved hug and kisses. This was not my son.

This evaluation was a precaution - to dot all of my "I's" and cross all of my "T's". I was in control of the situation - I had been closely monitoring Joe's progress from the beginning. His first evaluation was at 10 months old. He started Speech, OT, and PT at 12 months. September 16th was just supposed to be a formality. I was simply ruling out that dirty little word - just to silence that voice in the back of my mind. After all, my friends and family all thought I was insane for even conducting the evaluation.

After a total of 30 minutes - the woman closed her computer, packed her papers, and gave the diagnosis: "Joseph has PDD. You need to begin an intensive behavioral program and find a good school. He should be fine. He is very high functioning. “ She then scribbled a few names of schools on a piece of paper and left.

I sat there in silence. This was not real. I stared down at the names of the schools. I glanced over at my husband. He was smiling. He was happy that everything had "gone well". But, I knew. I knew what PDD stood for. Pervasive Developmental Disorder. PDD was the acronym that you used when you didn’t want to say the dirty little word - autism.

On September 16, 2009 my 16 month old son Joseph was diagnosed with autism.