What a Difference a Year Makes

My son doesn’t do lineups very well, and therefore we tend to avoid them wherever possible. Some would argue – completely within the realms of reason – that lining up is an essential life skill that we should expose him to more than we do. But like most parents of special needs kids, my husband and I already have enough on our plate without seeking out something to add to it.

Every year, though, we get the perfect opportunity to help him practice the skill of lining up, at the annual children’s Christmas party put on by my employers. It takes place at an indoor amusement park, and the day includes unlimited rides, gifts for the kids, and a picture with Santa. Bearing in mind that I work for a company that has 5000 employees at Head Office alone, the children’s Christmas party gets a little crowded.

Which means lineups everywhere, especially at Santa’s hangout spot.

In our first year at the Christmas party, we almost skipped the Santa picture because the line was so long, and as much as we want George to practice the skill, we have to be reasonable about it. But James would have been so disappointed to miss Santa. We didn’t want George to have a meltdown that could give him permanent negative associations with this place, but we also didn’t want James to miss out on a typical childhood experience.

In the end, we didn’t have to choose. The volunteers were more than happy to let us skip the lineup and go straight to Santa, and they have done this for us ever since. This small but very significant act of kindness is something that makes this day truly special for us.

We still have to line up for the rides, and in years gone by this has created a bit of a problem for George, but the lineups have moved just fast enough to avoid any potential explosions.

Yesterday we had the best children’s Christmas party ever. As always, we were allowed to skip the Santa line and for the first time, everyone was looking directly at the camera for the picture. Our first stop after Santa was the train ride, and from there we went around the whole place and the kids went on every single ride. There were lineups at all of them, and in some cases the wait was quite lengthy.

But George showed a kind of maturity we have not seen before, and he coped remarkably well with the crowds and the waiting. The only time he showed any kind of anxiety was during the wait for the bumper cars, which made even me feel claustrophobic.

We all had a fantastic time, made even better by the new signs of growth in George.

Sometimes time really does make a difference.



Mother Knows Best

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 17 – Learned the hard way: What’s a lesson you learned the hard way? Write about it for 15 today.

I first started having doubts about our family doctor when he kept telling us that there was nothing that could be done about my husband’s sciatica. It was a very disappointing thing to hear: although not a life-threatening condition, sciatica had been giving my husband a whole new kind of agony for a couple of years, and now we were hearing that he would have to live with it for the rest of his life.

It seemed improbable.  What about physiotherapy, or if we were really pressed, surgery? What about a simple MRI scan or a referral to a specialist?

But my husband’s family had been seeing this doctor for years, and they seemed to have complete faith in him. My husband was resistant to my suggestions to see another doctor.

A few months later, when I was hugely pregnant, I took my older son to the same doctor for his two-year check-up. All of the vital signs looked good. George was in healthy percentiles for both height and weight and he was not showing any signs of illness.

With the main purpose of the visit accomplished, I said to the doctor, “George isn’t talking.”

Indeed, George wasn’t talking. The only words that he used in a contextually appropriate way were milk, juice and jump. Like all new parents, I had practically memorized the developmental checklists, and I knew that George should be doing far more at this age.

The doctor asked a few questions, and then agreed that George did indeed seem to be delayed in his speech.

“But,” said the doctor, “The range of normal development is so broad, particularly where boys are concerned. I will give you some speech exercises to do with him at home, and we will see where we are in a year’s time.”

Every instinct I had was telling me that the doctor was wrong, that waiting was not the thing to do. I knew, had known on some level since George was an infant, that there was something wrong.

Instead of trusting my instincts, I listened to the doctor. I did the speech exercises with George, hoped against hope that he would simply open his mouth and talk one day, and then felt extremely guilty when he didn’t improve. Had I not done the speech exercises right? If I had spent more time on it would I have seen results?

At George’s three-year check-up I finally got a referral for a developmental assessment. When the autism diagnosis came in, all I could think of was how the doctor had told us to wait, and worse, how I had listened to a man I already had reservations about.

I thought about the year that George had lost because of this. The year of speech therapy and other autism-related interventions.

The guilt just about killed me.

And I swore that I would never, ever go against my “mother’s intuition” again.

(Photo credit: This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)