Talk to Me

We finally had Joey’s speech evaluation . . . sort of. Joey absolutely refused to cooperate with the therapist: he shouted; he wept; he threw things. This was not a surprise to me—the surprise was that some children his age would be willing to point at the bird (and so forth) when prompted. Another mother suggested that U ask to have him evaluated at our house—but I’m sure that the results would be much the same. After all, this is what happens when I try to do preschool things with him. Is this not normal?

At his last appointment, Joey’s pediatrician asked whether he is an unusually difficult child. I have no idea. How could I?

The speech therapist (who works at a center that serves the needs of children with special needs of all kinds) told us that there would be no point in getting Joey speech therapy, because he is too uncooperative to benefit from it. She said that we could have him reevaluated in a few months, if we wanted, and told us that we should talk to him about what we’re doing during the day in the meantime. I weakly told her that we do that already, and then we drove home. Mr. Book mentioned that for almost a year now, he has worried that Joey might be depressed.

At one point, when I was in college, my mother (who was reading When Someone You Love Is Depressed at the time) called me and blurted out: “Susie, I think you were depressed as a toddler!” I told her that while I don’t remember, yeah, that sounds right. My husband, as young as four years old, was prone to long stretches of seemingly unprovoked crying. His parents would ask whether they could help, and what was wrong and he would say “No, it’s just my problems.” We’ve both struggled with depression for most of our lives, is what I’m saying, and so it shouldn’t have been such a shock to hear and see that Joey might have inherited more than his father’s pretty blue eyes. And my strong desire to protect Joey—much stronger and less rational than my similar feelings concerning Kit—makes more sense when connected to a fear I was not articulating even to myself.

I am fortunate to be a part of a diverse and excellent parenting group which started elsewhere and now lives on Facebook. After the failed speech evaluation, I finally talked in detail about Joey—and moms of autistic children bluntly, gently, told me that I needed to get him evaluated for more than his speech. I was given phone numbers and handholding.

And then the speech therapist called and left a voicemail. If I can read between the lines a bit, she sounded like a person who had gotten a scolding; she said that the director of the clinic wanted Joey to be seen, and as soon as possible, and that she had a parent-report evaluation to perform when I had the time. I called her back the next day, and answered a long series of questions that started “Does Joey . . . ?” and “When Joey was a baby, did he . . . ?” Almost every “correct” answer was yes—I could tell that the evaluation covered deafness, autism, and developmental delays of many kinds. Joey is not deaf, and so I got those questions “right”—but too often I was answering no to the others. “Does Joey imitate you?” “Does Joey engage in pretend play?” “Does Joey take an interest in other children?” No. When she was finished, there was a follow-up question: “Have you had Joey evaluated by a behavioral psychologist?” No. “I would very strongly recommend it.”

Today we are seeing Joey’s pediatrician to get a referral to a behavioral psychologist.