The Ramblings Of Pessimism.

It’s like there’s a time bomb always ticking in the background. The background of my thoughts, of my routine, of everything in my daily life. The closer it gets to E’s 4th birthday, the more panicked I feel. The more restricted my airways become. I don’t think I ever really really believed that he wouldn’t talk. I kept thinking, not my E, he will eventually. He’ll get that speech therapy and it’ll take off. But, here we are at almost 3.5. Still no speech. He is smart as a whip and communicates in so many different ways, but I feel like the day is winding down. I am in the 11th hour. That might be a slightly dramatic description. There are kids that talk after the 4 year mark, and I do still have time. But in this moment of my fears, it feels exactly the way described. I think it goes hand in hand with the stages of grief. You swing from acceptance, to denial, to bargaining, to depression and back around again.

It’s the not knowing that really kills you. It’s also the seesaw of optimism mixed with the “well, its a spectrum” lines you get from the doctors. They never will tell you just how severe your kid actually is. I spend my nights googling, searching other autism forums, just trying to find out what I am up against. What group of autism is my son actually in? I hate this spectrum stuff. The spectrum is too broad, and it slights everyone. You are given a blanket diagnosis, with over a million different outcomes, and you just have to wait to see where your child lies. If you ask, they give you vague, nonsensical answers about it, “Well everyone is just so different on the spectrum. Anything can happen.” No definite answers. Tell me then what is the purpose of this “spectrum diagnosis? What good does it do me if I still have no idea the true prognosis for my son? And why is it an unspoken taboo to ask just where your child lies in the vastness of this spectrum diagnosis.

It’s as if you were to take your kid to the doctor because something is clearly not right. He is coughing, he has random fevers, he randomly throws up. You know something is wrong but you don’t exactly know what. You get to the doctors office and they confirm your worries.

“Well ma’am, you did the right thing by bringing him in. There is definitely something wrong with him.”

“What is it? What’s wrong with him?”

“It’s Childhood Illness.”

“Okay. What is Childhood Illness? Will it get better?”

“We are not sure what will happen with him and his Childhood Illness long term, or even short term. He could always have these symptoms, he could get rid of them, or he could end up having just half of them long term. It’s hard to say.”

“What should I do to help him?”

“There are 100 different things you can try. Some might work, some might not, and… maybe, its a possibility, that all of them will not do a thing.”

“Okay… well, is there one that would work better for his type of Childhood Illness? Could we get more specific?”

“Don’t get caught up in the labels, just accept your son and his Childhood Illness.”

“Can I talk to anyone else that has a child with Childhood Illness?”

“Oh definitely, there are tons of support groups. There are so many moms that have kids with this. That mom over there in the waiting room,” the doctor says pointing. “Her son has it too.”

“It kind of looks like her son actually has completely different symptoms than my child.”

“It’s still Childhood Illness.”

“But there is literally nothing the same at all between our two kids.”

“Well, that’s the way Childhood Illness goes. Read this book about it.”

“But, this book is about children who sneeze not cough and have chronic bloody noses. My son doesn’t have any of that.”

“Like, I said, it’s a spectrum. Just read it. I’ll see you and your son in six months to discuss how trying as many of those 100 things you can in that period goes. Try not to go bankrupt on the way.”

Outside of autism and other disabilities is this considered an effective plan of action? I feel like the doctors around me spend so much time trying to instill me with hope and optimism that they forget to fill me in on the realities. I know that nobody can answer the questions that I want to know about E. But just give me a ballpark. There is a big difference in my life long-term having a non-verbal moderately severe child with autism, and having a verbal child with moderate autism. I just want the facts. I am not alone in this. In the autism forums that I frequent, the pages are full of, “Tell me where my child is on the spectrum. Does your child, who is doing this and that, talk? What should I expect?”

Nothing from a medical provider can change E. They can’t change the future. But could they help me better prepare for it? In a situation where hope is a dangerous thing, what’s the harm in just giving the hard facts? If my hopes are low, I can only go up if he exceeds those expectations.

 

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Hoping For What?

As humans, I think we are designed to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. We gear up all the energy that we have, get a running start, and do everything we can to get to that light. But what happens when that light is not as visible? What happens when there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight?

I’ve been having meeting after meeting lately while we prepare to transition E out of Early Intervention and into the next phase of services. Part of this is a Future Planning Meeting, where we talk about what my hopes and goals are for E. I remember the meeting last year. I was optimistic. I had heard so many success stories about kids who after a year of therapy, their progress really took off. The speech kicked into place and things just got easier. When E’s third birthday rolled around, I remembered that meeting and I felt a loss all over again. A loss for all the hopes that I had for him in the past year. My original hopes were adjusted when he was diagnosed, and I had acquired new hopes. E actually has progressed. He has made a lot of changes. But as any parent of a special needs child knows, with progress, comes new difficulties. E becomes more aware of his environment. E becomes more anxious and sensitive to those things around him. E becomes more fearful. E becomes destructive as he learns to explore his environment.

As he has learned to say certain words and babble I find myself so excited for him. So excited that he is learning how to form sounds, and say words that are functional. E hears a door open somewhere in the world; on the tv, upstairs, in the neighbors house (That E Boy has supersonic hearing when he wants to). He says “door opennnn”…. I get so excited that he is aware enough to notice that the door is open and to say that phrase. I start to think, “Wow he is going to talk. I am so happy for him! Things are going to get easier.” But then that excitement fades as it stays the same. The same standstill. Last June, he imitated his first word, I was elated. A year later he does not imitate that word anymore. He does not imitate more words. He imitates a different word. I am ready for the progress, but it seems to just be parallel progress.

Preparing for my next Future Planning Meeting, I thought, “What are my hopes”? The meeting came around, and they asked the questions. “What is E doing differently this year? What has he overcome? What are his strengths”, and lastly, “What are your hopes for him?” Adjusting what I want, I told them I don’t have specific goals. My hope? For him to be happy.

Having a child with autism, it often seems suffocating. I get to a breaking point where it seems I can not stretch anymore, but then against all odds, I do.

Today, I heard a crash from the basement. I went down to find E shattering an heirloom. Picking it up again and again. Smashing it into thousands of pieces. The one thing I had that had been passed onto me from that grandparent. My heart broke. I was devastated. I can tolerate him pouring fruit loops all over the floor. I can tolerate him ripping a key off of my keyboard. I can fix those things. What I can’t handle? Him destroying something so irreplaceable and special to me.

Hope can be dangerous when you are dealing with autism. Every child is so different and I have no idea what to hope for. I hope that I can handle the next year. I hope that I can be a good parent. I don’t hope for things to get easier, and I don’t hope for progress. I want it. But if I hope for it, I don’t think I can handle the pain from that being crushed. Again and again.

Will He Talk?

Will my child ever talk? It’s a question that I’ve obsessed over for the last year. At the beginning, I thought about it compulsively. I would ask anybody and everybody. I wanted somebody to tell me that yes, he would talk.

We talk a lot in his appointments and therapies about progress. About E’s individual progress. That his timetables are different. That I can’t compare him to others at his age, but instead compare him to himself several months ago. Example. Several months ago, he was only babbling in vowel sounds, now he has been able to add consonants to his babbles. At the beginning, I tried to be patient with his progress. With his progress in OT I was patient, but with speech.. not so much. I always wanted to know if certain progressions meant that he would start talking in x amount of time. ‘If he is making those movements with his tongue, did that mean that he would for sure be talking by 3?’ I had to know when he would talk.

Several months back, I had just finished touring an Autism Center for E. I asked my question to the director. ‘Will he talk? Have you had children like E come through who end up with functional speech by Kindergarten?’ Her answer was the same as always. ‘You know autism is a spectrum. You know every child is different.’ Frustrated by the lack of knowing once again, I started thinking about why E talking was so important to me. What did it mean to me? What is my job as a mother? To make sure my child is safe, loved, and happy. So what if he doesn’t talk? What does that mean? Does that mean he can’t be happy? Does that mean he can’t be loved? No. I realized that me wanting E to talk, was me hanging on to the last shred of hope and normalcy for E. If he talked, somehow his autism wasn’t as serious. He could be one of those miracle stories that you hear about. Who seemingly grow up with no traces of autism left. In that moment, E’s autism finally sank it. With it came complete love and acceptance for my boy and what he was capable of. As long he was happy, that’s all I realized I really cared about. The fear over that question finally melted away. Whether or not he talked stopped mattering as much.

Do I still want him to talk? Yes, but now the reason behind it is different. I want him to talk for what it will do for him. I want him to be able to express himself. I want him to be less frustrated.

There are still days I ask that question and still days I get frustrated. But, now they are fewer and far between.

Coping.

Sometimes it totally catches me off guard that E has autism. I look at him asleep in his room and I see the pictures of him on the wall as an infant and it just hits me. The reality of it all. That my baby E has autism. It’s like a punch to the gut and I feel like I have had the wind knocked out of me. Especially days like today where he is really hard and the autism is more obvious. I look at that those old photos and with them are my expectations of what I thought he would be like and what I thought my life would be like. I expected him to be a typical little boy. He would go through the same stages and milestones as A. I see those pictures and it’s like they were another lifetime. It’s almost as if that boy still exists out there, and that mom still exists out there. And then I am here. People try to be optimistic with me. They say, he will be fine, he will do great. I hope for those things too, but what they don’t understand is that I am still dealing with the loss of what I thought he would be. I am still grieving my old life. To me in this moment, Autism is everything. I am grateful for what I have. I am grateful for the resources I have, but sometimes I am still just sad. And defeated. Sometimes it takes every ounce of energy to run after him again. Or to ignore the intense embarrassment I feel when he is shrieking and I am taking him out of the restaurant while everyone watches. Or feeling anxious as some stranger at a store comes over and tries to play with him and tries to be interactive. I pray that he just looks at them once so the moment will be over. Sometimes it feels like I have been dealt more than I can handle. For those days, there is writing and David Sedaris.