What I Didn’t Want to Hear

I started to write a reply to Sara’s comment on the last post, and it grew out of control, so I will make a proper update. First off: Joey’s eyes have not been checked, although it seems like he can see things far away (planes [I know that there is a sound to tip him off, but it’s not a very localized sound, yet he can spot the plane and follow it with his eyes], the moon, me from a block away without anyone pointing me out). It might very well be worth having that looked into. He’s never had an ear infection or fluid in his ears, happily. And in addition to my depression, I’m diagnosed ADD—I know there’s a heritable component to that, and my brother has the same diagnosis. But Joey doesn’t seem hyperactive, and he doesn’t have any trouble focusing; he’ll contentedly, silently play by himself for long stretches of time.

He’s had one session of speech therapy (just a getting-to-know-you introductory play period), and the speech therapist—while very clear that she cannot diagnose, and that he needs to be evaluated—thinks that he’s autistic. Looking up a list of characteristics of autistic toddlers was certainly dismaying, and I so much want it not to be autism that my thinking has been somewhat distorted around the idea. An example might be useful. When Joey gets upset or excited, he flaps his hands. But when I’ve been asked in evaluations whether he flaps his hands, I have said no, because I know they’re asking about autism, and this isn’t like autistic hand flapping, it is totally different and not like that at all. Except, I finally realized, it might not be some totally separate and unrelated hand flapping. It could be exactly the same thing. I’m working on getting my head on right. But my sister visited this weekend, and mentioned how excited Joey got over gummi bears at Christmas, and mimicked the hand flapping . . . and I kind of freaked out. Silently! And no one in my family thinks of autism when they see him doing it—it’s just Joey doing a cute Joey thing. Or maybe it isn’t.

Joey doesn’t seem sad, and he doesn’t cry much—he just doesn’t seem to give much of a damn about anyone but me. He doesn’t point, shake his head, or wave. He doesn’t imitate us. And on and on. I kind of don’t want to list them all again right now. But we have an evaluation scheduled for April 3, at least. In the meantime, the speech therapist has suggested that we sign with Joey, as many autistic kids do better with sign—this is how she explained her advice. Joey’s grandparents have ordered us some Signing Time dvds, and in the meantime, I’m using online sign dictionaries to add a few signs at a time; I’m up to <all done>, <sticker>, <mother>, <father>, <hungry>, <eat>, <cracker>, <tired>, <silly>, <bed>, <alone>—as in, “Leave the dvd player alone!” Of course, it’s hard to get him to look at me, but worse case I have always wanted to be bilingual, and really learning ASL would be great even if it turns out that Joey doesn’t need it.

I appreciate all the thoughts and prayers, more than I can say.