My dearest treasures on this earth are my children. I hold the whole of them — their smiles, those captured moments of cuteness, the sounds of their laughter — close in my heart. Nothing touches me like they do. Nothing hurts me like what hurts them. Nothing devastates me more than letting go to allow them to face life on their own — as it should be, as it needs to be sometimes.
My precious oldest son is in the process of being evaluated. Speech therapist, occupational therapist and psychologist have all been called into play. For most of our appointments, I have felt upbeat, even mostly relaxed. I don’t believe that he has autism. I’ve been around it enough to be aware, and he simply doesn’t read that way to me; but the supervising behavior specialist wants to be sure. Probably because of my extensive family history with the spectrum.
So we go to appointment after appointment. My son is already tired of being studied. I haven’t given him many details because nothing is conclusive, yet. More than that, I don’t want him to fear or dread going to the evaluation center. I want him to be at his best until they’ve seen all they need to see.
One of his evaluations was especially hard for me, and I’m still not quite sure why I felt so emotional. It was his speech evaluation. The therapist — pathologist I think they’re called, or SLP — separated us. I was in the observation room, a darkened room that looked through a two-way mirror. She was in the test room with my son, going through a book, asking him questions, scoring his answers. She didn’t try to engage him; just asked him question after question, marking his answers in her book. He was good for her, willing even. It was a long task for a five year old.
In that darkened room, as soon as I was alone, I started to cry, and cry and cry and cry. I was supposed to be filling out my own evaluation form on him, but it was hard to read the page sometimes. She called me in to the test room at the end, gave me no information, and said that we needed to hurry and finish because she had a patient. A patient? What was my son? A speed bump in her day? We had been worked in last minute, but it was an appointment that was already set aside for an evaluation. We weren’t taking up extra time, just time that until the day before, belonged to someone else.
I cried the rest of the day. Any time I thought about it, I cried. I cried as I fell asleep. I write about this because I don’t understand the abundance of my tears — truly. In part, I’m sure it’s due to my pregnancy. This baby has had me extra emotional. What has me confused is that I don’t fear a diagnosis — even if it’s autism. A diagnosis doesn’t change who he is. A diagnosis would simply make his life challenges more understandable. A diagnosis would give both him and me tools that we haven’t had before. Was it simply the separation? The feeling of having to let go? Trusting someone I don’t know with my child? The feeling that I can’t keep him safe — no matter how hard I try?
Safety has always been a big issue for me. My mother remembers me drawing pictures of myself in an airplane. I wanted to be a pilot, so that I could be up in the clouds where no one could hurt me. Feeling emotionally unsafe with my husband in the past has caused me to shut down — to seek safety by any means possible. Placing the safety and security of my being in God’s care has been one of the biggest challenges for me in my spiritual walk. I’m pretty sure that’s why He went through the trouble of telling me that even when Satan had tried to destroy me, He had held my soul in the palm of his hand.
So, while intellectually I have always known that parenting involved a daily letting go of your child into the care of the Almighty, I’m pretty sure the message never made it to my heart. I have to trust God to take care of my boy. He’ll start kindergarten this August, and from then on, will spend most of his day in someone else’s care. This doesn’t make me happy. Even though I know homeschooling isn’t for him — or me — I still want him with me, where I can take care of him and keep him safe.
The above paragraphs were written over six weeks ago after I had begun the evaluation process. The results have come back with a resounding “more than likely not.” And, no, I’m not making that up. The psychologist said that she wished there was a “quirky kid” diagnosis, and quickly rushed to say she hoped she wasn’t offending me. I laughed, assuring her I wasn’t, as my family is full of quirky, wonderful children. They all make me smile with the distinct ways they see the world. I have such a heart of love and enjoyment for my niece and nephews, no matter how different they are.
My oldest child does have, at the very least, a primary language delay. Time will tell if it remains in the category of “disorder.” This label I accept, as it is a very useful tool for his school days. We know what to communicate to his teachers about where he will struggle and how they can help him. I don’t worry. His teacher who tested him for kindergarten called him “delightful.” She isn’t the only one.