So, this is part two of my updates. This time I’m covering Tyger (because I mention him sooo rarely…).
Tyger had an appointment with a speech and language therapist as part of the diagnostic process recently. It went pretty well. She was lovely and told me she ‘could see what I see’ (i.e. Autism). She gushed about Tyger quite a bit and about his vocabulary and language skills and said she’d love to work with a child like Tyger. I suppose there’s a chance she does this with every child and parent to put them at ease and get them on side but I – of course – believe Tyger is a child genius so I’m sure she was genuine.
Pretty much the first thing to come up was my old friend ‘eye contact’. Until we saw the paediatrician back in April, every health care professional with whom I brought up ASD trotted out the familiar line of, ‘Hmm…well he makes good eye contact…’ This meant it came as surprise to me when the paediatrician mentioned a lack of eye contact in her report. The speech and language therapist (or ‘SALT’) picked up on the fact it took Tyger a looong time after entering the room to actually look at her face. And whilst he did give eye contact after that, it was sporadic and fleeting. I think of it like trying to force two magnets of the same polarity together. He’ll look but his gaze swings away pretty quickly and it’s an effort. I never thought about how much of an effort until I was trying to cut his fringe the other day (for any non-Brits reading this ‘fringe’ is what we call ‘bangs’).
Now, I’ve cut Tyger’s fringe many times and it has always been a struggle. He won’t stay still and trying to get him to look at me so I can make sure it’s at least vaguely straight (I think it’s unrealistic to aim for poker straight and completely horizontal but I do try to avoid the stairs or ramp across the forehead look as if someone might need access from his ear on one side to his scalp on the other). It just so happened, whilst I wielded hairdressing scissors and promised a biscuit when we were done, my parents were having a look at the SALT report. So, I was going through everything the SALT had mentioned at the same time I finally managed to get Tyger to look at my forehead for maybe 15 seconds (it doesn’t sound like much but sit and count out 15 seconds – that’s a looong time for a three year old to sit still) and suddenly he looked shattered. Honestly, his eyelids drooped, his face went slack and I thought for a moment he might fall asleep there and then. The revelation hit me: looking at people’s faces and especially eye contact are physically draining for him. I knew it was ‘hard’ but that’s quite an abstract concept and I’d sort of assumed it was hard in the same way it’s ‘hard’ for me to not eat Peanut M&Ms if they’re just sitting there. Realising it actually tired him out was a bit of an ‘ah ha’ moment (and made me feel a little guilty).
Come the end of the appointment she reassured me she ‘saw what I saw’ (i.e. ASD)., although said it was ‘subtle’. He’d give a doll a drink (with prompting) but was concerned there wasn’t any milk in the cup. He’d bath the doll (with more prompting and Tyger making excuses about being too busy) but was perturbed by the fact the doll’s shoes wouldn’t come off (they were painted on). She thought it was interesting, since Tyger is so advanced with his language and vocabulary, to note the aspects of his language that are not advanced. Namely, anything social. He comes out with all sorts of adult sounding language and phrases but still uses ‘he’, ‘she’ and ‘that’ interchangeably. I didn’t disagree with her but Tyger’s ASD is not so subtle when he screams for 20 minutes to the point where he makes himself throw up because I mentioned the guy who cut my parents’ hedge is on holiday.
The next hospital appointment he had was about a cyst under his eye, which just won’t fracking go away. It’s been there for months and is as persistent as Baby Bear when he’s decided he wants some chocolate buttons (though, the cyst doesn’t keep pointing to the basket with chocolate in and going, ‘Ugh, ugh, ugh, ugh,’ before crying and crying when I say ‘no’ then starting all over again – the cyst is just…there). I hate these appointments because you’re triaged as you come in so we tend to end up waiting about an hour before seeing a doctor. And there are no toys in the waiting room. And no hot drinks allowed. And now Bear won’t sit nicely in his buggy for the duration so there are TWO of them running around wreaking havoc.
However, Bear running around and wreaking havoc turned out to be a big bonus this time because he was kind enough to trip and sort of smack his forehead off the floor. He screamed. I mean, he really SCREAMED. And he just kept on and on. Doctors and nurses were trying to call patients in for their appointments but nobody could hear what they were saying. It would have been horrible…if it wasn’t for the fact it got us bumped to the top of the list! Hooray for Baby Bear! I am tempted to stick a foot out as Bear runs past at the next appointment…
Anyway, the doctor we saw after Bear’s spectacular fall was fine…except he mentioned the hair. I wrote at length about Tyger’s long hair in my blog post Yes, I Bought My Son a Dress. His hair’s even longer now and the comments and confusion have in no way decreased. The doctor just couldn’t seem to help himself.
‘I called you in and I was so confused. I checked the notes here and it definitely said he’s a boy. I thought, ‘What’s going on here, then!?”
What is going on here? More Goram sexist bullshit! I am just astounded a doctor who must see hundreds of patients a week is so utterly baffled by a boy with long hair. My hair is green at the moment, by the way. Bright green. I have not had a single comment from any stranger about my hair. It is obviously in no way noteworthy (or they realise how rude it is to comment on a stranger’s appearance when that stranger is an adult…) but a three year old boy with long hair?? That warrants comments pretty much every time we go out (which, granted, is not often).
Then there was the most recent hospital appointment (seriously, the last two weeks have seen an inordinate number of trips to the hospital, which would be less of an inconvenience if Tyger didn’t get car sickness…). This one was the last assessment for Tyger before his diagnosis and was with a child psychologist. I was expecting a similar drill to the last two appointments concerning Tyger’s diagnosis (questions directed to me about how he behaves in various situations and some play with Tyger whilst observing him). That’s not what happened. She informed me, as far as she was concerned, she should be there to help with behaviour and asked how she could help.
I was a little taken aback (where were the questions about how he interacted with people and how his diet is and what his interests are and how he reacts to change?…where were the questions for Tyger and getting him to perform certain tasks?). I put forward some of the problems we’re been having and pretty much everything I mentioned was met with, ‘Well, all three-year-olds do that…’ I started to panic. Did she think I was overreacting? Did she think I’m just a terrible parent who struggles to cope with perfectly ‘normal’ preschooler behaviour?
This child pyschologist was the one who diagnosed my sister. My mumcame out of that appointment completely nonplussed. She didn’t know whether my sister had been diagnosed, she didn’t really have any idea what had happened.
The child psychologist openly says she suspects herself of being on the spectrum. I think, perhaps, she doesn’t see the point in telling parents their child has ASD when it was the parents who brought it up in the first place.
Whatever the reason, I was unnerved until we were leaving and she explained she’d tell the paediatrician her recommendation was an Asperger’s diagnosis.
Then quickly ushered us out of the door!
Now it’s a case of waiting…but I’m hopeful.