Friday, January 17, 2014

The diagnosis

“He doesn’t talk much” I remember someone saying, “are you worried about that?” Truth was, I wasn’t. I thought everything about Sam was perfect. Over the next month, I heard other moms whisper similar concerns.

At Sam's check up his pediatrician dismissed the worry. "Boys often talk late," he reassured, “Give him another month.” Much as I liked his answer, something made me investigate further.  Two months into a six-month wait for an appointment, a cancelation at Children’s Hospital brought us to Boston on a bright January morning. Sam was two and a half. I hoped it was a short detour in our happily ever after life, that the doctors in Boston would echo Sam's pediatrician.

We were met by a team of smiling doctors. Introductions were made. “Isn’t he a happy boy. Look at those rosy cheeks,” one doctor remarked. “Oh if I could have those thick curls,” said another before they whisked Sam away to a separate room. “You’ll chat with us,” said yet another doctor, “We’ll need some history.”

A few hours later the same smiling doctors reconvened and delivered several blows.

Certain words still resonate global delays, auditory processing deficits, motor planning difficulties and sensory disorder. The words “behind his peers” assaulted my ears again and again and again. I studied their faces and tried to understand.

A phrase I’d never heard before, “Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)” was mentioned, debated and dismissed. Though they were not all in agreement, Sam’s stellar eye contact and joint attention prevented consensus within the group.  The look on one doctor’s face said in a sea of bad, this was possibly a very small glimmer of good.

They concluded with the words, “Connect with Early Intervention.” They smiled and complimented Sam’s beauty once more. They wished us luck and we were dismissed. We talked idly on the drive home, struggling to wrap our brains around the information provided; to make sense of this new foreign language. Sam, blissfully unaware, sang happily from the back seat.

I sat alone with Sam that night humming as I stared into his eyes and studied his face. Everything was different. Though I tried to dismiss it, I knew something had changed irrevocably. A dense fog had replaced the future that was crystal clear a day ago.

With Sam on my lap, I typed in the words, auditory processing, motor planning, global delays and sensory disorder and searched the Internet. As inconceivable as seems today, I only got six hits. I opened the first link. It began with the word “autism” followed by the words, “a devastating lifelong disorder.”

I closed the computer and took a deep breath.  

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