Dreading the day
I had both dreaded and anticipated this day for a few months. My son Ethan’s psychological evaluation. We had suspected about half a year ago that he might fall within the autism spectrum. He had all the typical signs of a child with autism — incessantly playing with anything that looks like a wheel, repetitive routine-focused play, delays in speech language development and gross and fine motor skills, limited eye contact and social communication. But still, I stubbornly held on to hopeful things that a few people said. His neurologist said he could outgrow it. His regional center service coordinator said he just might be diagnosed with developmental delays. I struggled with shame, shame about being ashamed, the inclination to isolate, acceptance of my son’s potential diagnosis and the tendency to try to “fix” my son. I had anxiety before the meeting, which turned out to be fairly easy. My husband and I filled out a couple of tests. Does he respond to his name? Does he look when you point to objects? How often does he engage and play with other kids? That sort of thing. We had to leave the room when the psychologist initiated directed play with him to determine his responsiveness and engagement level. At the end of the first day of the evaluation, we were given the opportunity to ask questions. When will we know? I asked. Within 3-4 weeks. The doctor said my son was a good fit for ABA therapy. That was something I had just become certain about; I had long wondered about its possibility and how we would adjust and cope with it when the time comes. She said the my son met a lot of the criteria for an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis.
I almost felt relieved. In my heart, I knew that my son was somehow different than his typically developing peers. My son would get the early intervention that he needs. The psychologist also said that he could outgrow the diagnosis and not be manifesting these symptoms after a year. Early intervention is key. Get as much ABA therapy that you can get, she said. With my son’s full schedule, five one-on-one therapy sessions of 45 minutes and three mornings of his preschool-type early intervention program, he was one of the busiest two-year-olds I’d ever known. They could offer as much as 40 hours. A full-time job! I shared the news with my husband, glad that we got the diagnosis early, leaving ample time for early intervention, but overwhelmed with the amount of therapy that my son would need to receive. Still, I was hopeful. His pediatrician had mentioned that there now existed a lot of therapies for individuals with autism. She was definitely right, and we had moved into a city that was the mecca of neuro-developmental related services, including pediatric therapy, early intervention and behavioral therapy. We had no idea that my son would be later diagnosed with ASD; we had no idea either that the city we had moved into had so much to offer when it comes to early intervention and behavioral therapy. My husband just happens to work in this city. Once again, there was a reason behind all the decisions we thought we were making on the fly. When we moved to our previous residence, it made it possible for me to give birth to my son at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital, one of the best in the nation.
Could I possibly love my son more? Sometimes I asked myself that question. Apparently, I could. When I learned that my son had ASD, he became even more precious in my eyes, and no less beautiful than when I first held him in my arms.