Today started out like many others, I had an early appointment for my son, just a regular check-in with our child development pediatrician. Aiden was okay with this, as he had been assured that it was just a "talking appointment", and knew that nothing "would get done" to him. Oh my.
We were waiting in the hospital waiting room, which, rather inconviently houses a large, run around play area, just right for getting your small child all wound up prior to their appointment. Aiden was playing, and there was another young boy there, I woudn't guess that he was yet 3. The little boy was very sweet and adorable, and obviously adored by his mom who followed him dotingly around the cursed play area. Their closeness was so apparant, and really heartwarming. It was, in a word, nice.
Next I saw the mom called over, and my heart sank when I saw which doctor had beckoned her. It was the pediatrician who runs the autism screenings. Accompanying her was an SLP, I know to be on the autism team. Suddenly, my eyes were stinging. I saw them smiling together, and talking quietly, and watched as they led the boy and his mother around the corner to a room I knew all too well. The room where they run their observations. A room my husband and I had walked into ourselves, hand in hand with our own adorable little boy, who'd just turned 3.
I was caught off guard by my reaction...it was as if I had afforded this mom a sympathy I have never extended to myself. When I was coming out of our appointment, she was leaving at the same time. I felt such a kinship to this woman, with whom I'd only exchanged a few words...but I felt like I knew her. Perhaps knew better than her what she might by facing. I wanted so badly to go to her and comfort her..let her know that it would be okay, her boy would still be her boy.
But, sadly, I also felt a kind of pity for her. I felt like consoling her for all the things she was going to have to face. For how overwhelming it all is in the beginning, and how really, its challenges never fade, they just have a way of jumping around, creating new hurdles, new obstacles... I wanted to tell her that people are going to be mean, that's she's going to have to get to know her stuff, because lots of decisions will have to be made... she's going to have to grow a thick skin, thick enough for them both.
I wanted to help her freeze time, before they called her back and gave them her judgement. "He does fall on the autism spectrum." Once spoken...takes only a few seconds...but changes everything.
I wanted to say, You don't know me, but I know you. You don't know me, but I'm your sister. You don't know me, but we're part of the same club, you and I. Welcome to our sub-culture. Welcome to being an autism mom... Hold on tight.
Of course, I never said any of these things, just gave my little boy's warm hand a bit of a tighter squeeze as we walked on past. I didn't even make eye contact.