No, this was not my annual gynecological exam where I worry as I time the doctor's exam for fear that any longer than usual probing may indicate a discovery of some silent growing tumor. And no, I was not sitting in a pink robe following my mammogram waiting for the dear Radiologic Technician (aka, the lady who squishes you in a way you didn't know you could be squished...aka Mammogram Lady) to walk back in the room with a smile she has practiced hundreds of times in her bathroom mirror, and proclaims, "We just need a few more pictures" as I stand up shaking so hard I forget to hold my robe closed (yeah, that happened). This was a very benign, very easy appointment, until in my head, it wasn't.
It has been years since Ryan has had any formal evaluations other than speech and language. After a roaringly successful year, it may seem odd that I would chose now to have Ryan "looked at again". This assessment was not about a diagnosis, there is no need for that because even though Denial still shows up on my back porch to share a bottle of wine, to quote the doctor who quoted another parent sitting in the anxiety room, I mean waiting room, "if it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, and walks like a duck, chances are, it's a duck". This evaluation was not to confirm or deny Ryan's ASD Diagnosis, this was more about seeing how autism impacts Ryan's learning. And just like that first evaluation all those years ago when we heard The A Word, parent input is part of the process.
These questionnaires, or rating scales, asked questions like, "Does he transition easily from one activity to the next?" and "Does he initiate play with other peer age children?" and "Does he look at you when you call his name?". It didn't take a board certified psychologist to know what the answers to such questions may mean for my son. I distinctly remember the pen shaking in my hand as I worried, analyzed, and obsessed over every one of my responses.
My hand would shakily hover over Almost Always, but, my heart would be screaming, Sometimes. Sometimes felt safe, after all, Sometimes fell right in the middle and being in the middle was good, right? Not too extreme right or left, therefore, my poorly drawn or colored in circle would not sway the experts one way or the other.
As always back in those days, Denial was sitting next to me helping me complete the questionnaire. "If you answer Almost Always, Ryan will most certainly get The A Word", Denial whispered in my ear. Yet, even with Denial's persuasion, I worried that a Sometimes or Never would prevent Ryan from getting the services he needed to help make life a little less loud and scary for him. Even if I chose to ignore Denial, which I rarely did, how in the world was I suppose to know the difference between Almost Always and Sometimes? I didn't keep a data log counting all the things Ryan did or didn't do, and AWEnestly, with Denial by my side, when I would see something that didn't look quite right with Ryan, I Almost Always looked the other way rather than facing it head on. Then later, I would Very Often feel guilty.
As I sat in that anxiety room, shoot, I mean waiting room, with Snickers smudged on my face and chocolate sticking to the office pen (sorry Doc) that was still trembling in my hand, somewhere deep in the recesses of my twisted brain, I was able to push past the fear, push past the "what if's" and I was able to recognize that circling Just a Little True instead of Pretty Much True is not the tell all answer for Ryan's future. I know that there is no answer that I can circle, that Dan can analyze, or that a doctor can score, that could have ever predicted how far Ryan has come or how far he will go.
Once upon a time I would have been horrified that Ryan greeted this wonderful neuropsychologist and her staff in his best British accent, but, now I just laugh and assure them he was not raised in London, but, his favorite Minecraft Youtuber was. Ryan has grown by leaps and bounds since the first time we heard The A Word and so have I. Even though some days it's harder than others, I Almost Always accept Ryan's autism and embrace his differences. And even though Sometimes I lose my patience, my temper and my mind, I Never forget how far we both have come and no matter what the future holds, Ryan knows, I will Always be his biggest advocate, his biggest supporter and his biggest fan. That my friends, regardless of a circle, a box or a number, will Always be Very Much True.