About a month ago I received an ominous email from Nicky’s preschool teacher requesting a meeting between her, the preschool director and me. My anxiety kicked in immediately, it was about 9 o’clock at night and the butterflies went crazy and something invisible squeezed my heart. I’ve always been the rule follower, doing my best to do things exactly as I’m expected to do. So this meeting, doubtless about something my son had done, left me feeling like I failed in some way. And its ambiguity was worse. Something wasn’t done right and they weren’t even going to give me a heads up so I could prepare myself.
Even when I got a little more detail (they’ve noticed some red flags, one being his anger) the following week my mind was filled with worse case scenarios.
The morning of my meeting, I was getting Nicky ready for school and he was fighting with me as I tried to get him dressed. He grabbed my arm and bit me! I don’t really remember my exact reaction but I know there was some crying in there. I took him to school and waited for my meeting.
The director and his teacher sat with me in a room and they went through behavioral issues they’ve noticed and a few “red flags” they’ve also noticed. They never did say what the “red flags” indicated but I’m assuming being on the autism spectrum. They mentioned his anger and difficulty transitioning from one activity to the next and asked me if I noticed any of this at home. I don’t know if it’s because I actually had to say something or if that bite from the morning was still at the front of my mind but I told them I have noticed the anger and wondered if it was normal and then I just started crying. I had spent all morning telling myself not to cry and I made it through most of the meeting not doing it and then there I was. Because they were telling me that my son’s behavior isn’t typical and I don’t know if it upset me just at face value–my son isn’t normal; or if it upset me because I felt like it was my fault, I had somehow failed my son, or even that I failed to notice the red flags myself before this meeting.
My nephew has autism, very high functioning, but I looked for all the little telltale signs he displayed from birth through 3 years, I read every email and article on babycenter about early warning signs and if I noticed one or two I comforted myself with the fact that he didn’t have the minimum number they stated before you should worry. But it’s been at the back of my mind for his whole short life.
They wanted me to have him evaluated by the county and so I arranged for that to happen. The week of the evaluation things had been good, he hadn’t been fighting me about going to school, I couldn’t remember the last time I snapped at him. We ended up meeting with four ladies (I was under the impression it would be one person but it made sense to have the others there, speech and behavioral people). I sat at a small table and talked to them while Nicky played with a graduate student. So while we talked, these women also observed. Nicky was at the top of his game that morning, he seems to like girls who are between 13 and 22 so I think the graduate student was his kind of girl. He made eye contact with her, played calmly, told her stories, etc. so the women said they didn’t think he had any cognitive issues but they would like to observe him at school for the behavioral issues they weren’t able to observe.
When we went to leave, I realized how scared I was to tell him we had to go and to have him meltdown when honestly, that would have been the best place for it. These women are there to help but all I could think about was how embarrassing and difficult it would be if he melted down and whether they would observe and say, “well your approach is all wrong, no wonder your child behaves that way.” Because they just said the issue wasn’t anything cognitive so that must mean I’m doing something wrong, right?
They set up a time to observe him at school and afterwards called me to move forward with some testing. First they’ll test his hearing, and in January they’ll do the real testing. The lady said he’s a real puzzle so she wants to test to ensure he doesn’t fall through the cracks – which makes sense. But it’s still hard. And I really don’t know which I’d prefer, for this to be a phase he’s going through or for there to be an issue. Because if it’s an issue/disability it lasts a lifetime; if it’s a phase it’s probably because I’m doing something wrong.
The Christmas pageant is today and the other day the preschool director said Nicky may just sit with me during the pageant (I guess that will be decided at some point today) because he doesn’t seem to want to participate. And I know this is stupid or shallow or something but I’ve been looking forward to this all year- but I know what a disaster it will be because my kid isn’t the type to actually sing and follow directions in front of an audience and I always have these expectations that we’ll have these cute experiences, normal experiences, and I’m always sad when they don’t work out.
And then that gets the pity party started because I wonder if that’s the rest of my life. Will I always hope for these seemingly normal experiences only to be disappointed when they don’t happen?
I don’t mean to have the pity parties, but I’m trying to process and to figure out how I feel because really I only know that I’m sad and scared and I couldn’t definitely tell you why. And I think the worst part is waiting, waiting to know if there is or isn’t something. Waiting to know how I should proceed with how I teach and interact with him.
And another thing, because it’s on my mind…his teacher always brings him to the car at pick up after school and on some days she says he’s “overstimulated”, because he’s crying and doesn’t want to go home. I get really bothered by that – it’s like a super nice way to say, “there’s something wrong with your kid”. At least that’s how I take it. He’s my kid, I expect him to not want to go to school and then a few hours later to not want to leave, I know how he gets. You don’t have to explain to me why he’s upset. It just–it makes me angry. And I know I shouldn’t be because his teacher is the sweetest person but there’s a little voice in the back of mind that thinks, “they don’t want him here”. And I know that’s not true, I’ve seen them with him and I know they love him, but it pops up just the same.
Anyway, I just needed to vent because I don’t have any answers or any solutions or an action plan and I won’t until at least January and it’s driving me crazy. The worst is – what if there’s nothing and they got me all worked up over nothing?