Prior to Ryan becoming a huge Mozart fan through Tomatis Therapy, an extensive occupational therapy evaluation was conducted by a certified occupational therapist (OT) with years and years of experience working with kids on the autism spectrum. Technically, an OT, can't make an "official" diagnosis, but they can certainly make strong suggestions which letter of the alphabet fits your child's struggles. The OT performing the evaluation agreed with every expert who had come before her and she did not believe The A Word was fitting for Ryan. I can't begin to tell you how relieved I was then and how grateful I am to this day. You see, Dan and I really wanted a third child and I feel quite certain had an autism diagnosis been suggested then, my beautiful Emma may not be here. I literally shuddered as I typed that. Timing really is everything.
Although the therapists felt Ryan was "more involved", they continually reminded me that what you called "it" didn't matter, what really matter was getting Ryan the help he needed to be successful and that was just what we were doing. Those fabulout OT's didn't know me very well back then, but, oh, how they do now. Poor things. Every chance I got, I hinted or downright asked, "Do you think such and such behavior means Ryan has autism?" These therapists could have been telling me about the best turkey wrap they had ever eaten and somewhere between the turkey and the lettuce I would work in, "So, do you think Ryan is autistic?" It goes without saying to work with kids who have varying different-abilities takes a person with a great deal of patience. To put up with those kids neurotic mothers takes a saint. I wish I was a sculptor, I would erect statues for all the saints who came before I was AWEnest and still chilling with my BFF Denial.
We had several choices. Since Ryan was school aged, we could have the school district evaluate him, but Dan and I were very concerned about how much information we were willing to share with the school district just yet. After all, Ryan was doing beautifully in kindergarten so why would I want the school to label my son and have preconceived notions about his abilities or his struggles? We could have gone to the developmental pediatrician in our hometown that everyone goes to, but after hearing the wait was almost eight months long and after the receptionist explained the process, I decided, no thank you. It turns out that after calling several other well known hospitals in other locations, the process was remarkably similar which shocked and saddened me. With each phone call I was informed that after Dan and I filled out loads of paperwork and questionnaires regarding Ryan's development, play, learning, sensory issues, etc, the doctor and his team of specialists would spend two hours with Ryan, evaluate him then provide us with a diagnosis. All said and done, it was one appointment that would take about two hours. Really? Two hours to put a label on my kid for a lifetime?
With my mama bear voice, I growled to the poor receptionist, "So let's see, as I understand it, these doctors plan on putting my son in a room full of strangers for two hours and you expect him to perform like a circus monkey and if he doesn't perform to their expectations it's sorry, here's your label anyway? Oh and by the way, here is a list of recommendations we cut and paste for almost every kid who has a similar diagnosis. Have a nice day.". There was silence on the other end of the phone. Poor woman, just doing her job. She meekly replied, "I'm sorry Mam (I hate that stupid word), but there are too many kids needing evaluations and there just aren't enough doctors to do it any other way." I thought I was going to throw up. As a parent, we are all aware of those moments when you want your child to perform their latest, greatest feat which of course they spend all day doing, until you ask them to perform for Aunt Ethel. No way. Although it may be disappointing that Aunt Ethel didn't get to see your child say his alphabet backwards while standing on one leg, his performance or lack thereof, won't dictate his future (unless of course tryouts for America's Got Talent is the next day). Free piece of advice here folks, encourage your child to become a psychologist, psychiatrist or developmental pediatrician specializing in autism. I assure you they will have job security. One child every 20 minutes.
Timing really is everything and boy did we hit the mark. We got lucky...so lucky. A compassionate, kind, and freakishly smart psychologist recently started a private practice after being home a few years raising her beautiful girls. She was near by and agreed to conduct Ryan's evaluation. This fabulous psychologist met with us and explained the process and the various tests she would administer to Ryan. Dan and I, as well as Ryan's teacher, had to fill out forms regarding his behavior, developments, academics, sensory issues, social interactions, etc. It was one of those forms with circles you had to fill in under headings such as Always, Almost Always, Sometimes, Almost Never, Never, Only When He Wears a Blue Shirt, Only When the Moon is Full...you get the picture. I hate those da** things. Not only did I have no idea what the difference was between Sometimes and Almost Never, you add my horrific fear of wanting to be AWEnest, yet certain if I color in the wrong circle my son's future will be determined by my pencil mark. It caused me to sweat.
Once the psychologist finished all her testing, a seperate speech and language evaluation had to be completed by a licensed speech and language therapist. Then, it was finally time. THE evaluation was completed and it was time to hear the results. I had obsessed, feared and literally made myself sick over this moment. The "what if's" of several years culminated into this one moment and my heart was beating out of my chest. Dan stood on one side of me, Denial on the other as we approached the psychologists office. Walking up the steps to her office, it felt like bricks were tied to my feet. What if she says The A word? If she says The A Word, I hope it's Aspergers, not Autism because the internet says Einstein, Sir Isaac Newton, and Mozart probably had Aspergers, so Ryan might be eccentric, but he will be rich and famous if he has Aspergers. What if it's classic autism and she tells us he will never be able to have a job, a friend, a wife, or live alone? Ryan was 6 years old and her office was on the second floor.
Maybe I was wrong and it wasn't the right time for the evaluation. Maybe Ryan needed more time, afterall, he was only 6. Maybe I needed more time to prepare myself for what this wonderful psychologist was about to say. Maybe I needed more time to hang out with my BFF Denial. Maybe the person who said timing is everything is a total idiot. The psychologist opened her door with a smile and I immediately scanned her office for the garbage can certain I would vomit before our time was up. I thought about taking the garbage can and running back down the steps, but it was time. Time to push Denial over the stairway railing, stop being afraid and be the mama bear my son needed me to be. "Life is all about timing...the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable becomes available, the unattainable...attainable. Have the patience, wait it out, it's all about timing." It really was all about timing and so far time had been on my side. So, I sat down, eyeballed the garbage can, held my breath, put my hands over my ears (Denial was still clinging to the railing) and waited....