denial

I observed a boy today at his preschool. We tried to assess him at our school last week, but he fell apart. He screamed for 25 minutes.

His mother knows me a little. I tested her daughter last year for stuttering, but she was really fine, and I didn’t qualify her for services.

The boy is different. As different as you can imagine. Being a speech person, I’m not allowed to give him the label. However, my experience and the sick feeling in my stomach tell me he has Autism. His movements, his voice, his lack of play skills, his lack of appropriate interaction with peers or adults, his need for routine – they all point to that dreaded diagnosis.

His mother either doesn’t know about Autism, or she is in true denial. She is a wonderful mother. She knows his needs and meets them instinctively. She doesn’t even know how much she is helping him cope in the world. She thinks his delays are only language based. She thinks that if she could understand the words he is saying that he would be ok. The problem is that what he is saying only has meaning to him. She wants us to qualify him for “itinerant” speech. That means she would bring him to speech once or twice a week.

I can’t do that. He needs to be in a structured preschool with lots of visuals. He needs speech therapy, he needs occupational therapy, he needs a teacher with experience with children like him.

I cannot imagine what she is thinking and feeling about her beautiful little boy. Part of me wishes I could let her live in denial. Let her love him without any labels.

But I can’t. This is the part of my job I hate.

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~ by Larisa on October 25, 2005.

5 Responses to “denial”

  1. That would be so hard.

    You are helping these families so much though…

  2. I saw a “weekend father” play with his autistic daughter once. He looked like he was suffering. He didn’t know what to do, and it was pretty heartbreaking. I’m glad that, even though she’s in denial, she is a good mother and will most likely rise to her son’s needs (she’s already doing it anyway).

    Being the bearer of the truth can be so hard.

  3. Oh…

    That’s incredibly hard. I too am glad she’s a good mother. Now she just needs to be a good mother with the right information.

  4. I just wanted to ammend my comment. reading back I think it sounded a little too ‘pat’. I have every sympathy for her (and you).

  5. My son has some language and fine motor skills delay, and I don’t think his father and I would have made it through the diagnosis without the support and unfailing kindness of his teachers. He is nowhere near autistic – just needs a little play therapy – but I think most of the sadness we felt was due to the picture of our smart, funny, and kind perfect little boy that we carry around in our heads, and having to let go of that picture – and accept that something was wrong. His teachers and Early Childhood Development worker have been incredible with this – I can’t imagine nicer people. Please don’t sell yourself short – you have the power to make the label much less frightening and give that mother back tools to help her and hope.

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