Day to day, living with my boys just feels regular. It’s just daily life. Andrew is Andrew and Isaac and Isaac and really…it’s as simple as that. Two hilarious, energetic, snuggly, sweet, loving boys. But every now and than, especially in the Spring when their birthdays swing around, when the progress reports come home from school, when new IEPs are signed, it hits me anew.
I forget how different they are…AND I think about it all the time. I doubt myself in my ability to gage their differences…since they are what I always see…and then something happens that reminds me in a jarring way.
I had a “first” with Isaac two weeks ago. I didn’t see it coming and I was surprised when it was over, at how much that little “first” took me off guard. I took him to his 4 year check up and the nurse could tell, within minutes of meeting Isaac, that he was autistic. This is a really specific first…but…here goes: It was the first time that I could tell that they could tell without my saying anything.
Usually, I think, no one thinks about it. We walk down the street and no one is wondering about him…they are just admiring his red curls and adorable smile. Or we engage with someone at the playground and I assume they think he’s just a lot younger than he really is. But, the nurse knew we were there for a 4 year check up. She knows 4 year olds. And so she knew right away.
She was VERY nice and extremely helpful. In fact, I hope we get the same nurse for other appointments at that office. In the end, this really doesn’t have anything to do with her. It had to do with my own lingering denial. There are so many ways that I don’t deny that my kids are autistic. But, I find, there are still some other ways that I do. Denial really is one sneaky devil. You don’t think it’s there…because….well…you’re in denial! You can’t see it! But then, you do. You see it right there. I was denying that anyone could see that Isaac is autistic. And suddenly I could see that denial there, clouding my vision.
But, that day, a little more denial fell away. A clearer perspective replaced it. It was hard…but good too.
Here’s what I wrote:
Isaac, I recently took you for your 4 year check up. When the nurse met us in the room and started going through the routine tasks of a check up, I could tell that she knew there was something different about you. Most people that we encounter in a small meeting like that don’t notice, but she did. She didn’t say anything, and neither did I, but we both knew that we’d need to alter the check up a little bit to make it work for you.
You are very unusual for your age and you are developing and unfolding at your very own, extremely beautiful, pace. You don’t particularly like to talk to new people and when you do talk to them, you usually only offer up a few words here and there. You don’t understand lots of language being thrown at you and when the nurse tried talking to you, you didn’t really listen or understand what she was saying.
When it was time to check your vision, she brought us to look at the two charts she uses. She was asking you the name of various shapes on the chart: a sailboat, a teacup, a circle. But you didn’t answer her and instead you were staring at the chart with the alphabet. I suggested we use the alphabet chart to check your vision and she worked with us to get as accurate a test as possible, jumping back and forth between the two charts as you got silly about which chart you wanted to use.
Doctor Gelman gave you a quick exam and I gave him a quick update about your progress and copies of your most recent reports from school. He confirmed what I already knew: you are a VERY healthy little boy. You get a lot of support at school, and you are very different from other kids your age…but you really are one incredible little guy.