One other thing (and I hope you don’t mind the unsolicited advice): Even while you are in the assessment process, talk to a developmental pediatrician (or another autism specialist) about the pros and cons of home schooling vs. preschool. On the one hand, home schooling affords Joey to have tons of individual attention and help from you. On the other hand, since people with autism often struggle the most with social skills, he might really benefit from consistent, regular interactions with peers. Also, if you work on social skills with Joey at home (and I would recommend it; there are many wonderful kids’ books and activities designed for this purpose), a preschool environment would enable him to practice the skills he is learning. Too, the teachers could give you regular, objective feedback about how he is doing, and then you could use this feedback to identify and target specific skills or areas where he needs extra help.
One of the things that I’m grieving (current stage: anger, mostly, with some bargaining and a smidge of depression) is not being able to parent the way that I had wanted. (For the purposes of this entry, I am going to assume that Joey is, in fact, autistic: the other day, I was listening to an audiobook memoir of parenting an autistic son, and when she ran through the diagnostic criteria, I just started banging my head against the refrigerator. If those are still the criteria, yeah, he’s totally autistic.) I’ve been reading about autism with just about all of my free time recently, and it seems clear that it will be best for Joey if he is in a hugely structured environment, with ABA therapy and me reinforcing that all the time and speech and occupational therapies and probably a preschool at some point. I can’t do the “Let’s read good books and expose you to information and groovy experiences and let you learn” because he’s not going to just soak stuff up. We’re going to have to stuff him with skills like a turkey, apparently. And of course I’m on board to make that 180, because I want him to do well and be happy and able—but it pisses me off a little, in a self-pitying and selfish way, that I can’t give him the free-range childhood that I wanted him to have.
What does this mean for Kit? Obviously I’ll parent them differently, even more differently than the inevitable “two different children with different needs” differences that I had anticipated, and whoa, I think if I stuff one more “different” into this sentence, I will win some kind of award. When I was pregnant with Joey, I decided that if he was born with special needs, I wouldn’t have any more kids; I have heard from siblings of special-needs people how hard that role can be. And here we are, and I can’t for a minute regret my Kit, because he is a joy and absolutely essential now that he’s here. But how do I do this? Good thing that I’ve got some time to figure this out. Clearly I’m going to need to make time alone with each of them, but that was already true.
I got a couple of things to go in the boys’ Easter basket: a board book, a thunder tube, some bubbles. In a day or two, we’ll pick up some candy. Time just keeps marching alone, even with me staggered.