An Open Letter to the Mom in the Doctor’s Office Today

I overheard your friend (daughter? niece?) reading to you from that questionnaire today, and I took notice because of all of your “no” responses. I immediately remembered those soul-crushing, developmental, yes or no questions, the mix of defensiveness and hopelessness when you begin to understand just how far behind your little one is.

“Does your child point to an item s/he wants? Does your child turn pages of a book independently? Does your child say three words?…”

And on, and on, and on. I heard the tone of your voice change the more she asked. I heard you begin to whisper. I glanced at your face to see if you might cry, but you were holding it together. I guessed the tears may come later when you are alone, maybe before you fall asleep tonight.

And I watched your little one. I watched him smile, and observe the other children playing – he was watching close, but something was keeping him from playing along. He looked at me and made eye contact. I waved and smiled. He smiled bigger and looked to you for reassurance, but you didn’t notice.

I wanted to say, “This tall, gangly boy of mine sitting next to you didn’t do any of that stuff either. We had to use flash cards to teach him words. He didn’t point at anything.  They thought he was cognitively impaired because he played with the toys wrong.  But you know what? He is the best speller in his class and uses words like ‘misheard’ and ‘eclectic’ as an almost-seventh grader!”

I really wanted to say, “These questionnaires are a special kind of torture for us, and you are most definitely one of us. You are not alone.  Don’t discourage too quickly.  Be hopeful, because he needs you to be. I have been in exactly that spot where you are sitting and it is awful, but better days are ahead. Believe in that little boy.”

But I didn’t say anything because I’m not sure I would’ve wanted anyone to do that when I was in your place. Maybe I should have. Instead, I hope you get the support you need through this process, and that you realize quickly that he needs you to just do what you gotta do to get him as close as you can to where he needs to be.

And that there are lots of us rooting you on, even if silently from the chair next to you in the doctor’s office.

My little blond boy, once upon a time...

My little blond boy, once upon a time…

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My Bright Spot

I mentioned I have a new tutoring student.  She is in kindergarten and has developmental delays, both physical and otherwise.  A petite little thing, I need to hold her hand to climb the stairs to the tutoring room where I work.  She doesn’t often look me in the eyes unless I’ve told her she made a mistake or has a wrong answer, when she looks at me with eyebrow cocked, as if annoyed with me for not complying with her view of the way things are.  She often repeats nursery rhymes and facts she’s heard about random things, word-for-word, in that way I know so well from my own son.

She has a tube of some sort – I haven’t asked – and doesn’t take much food orally, so I brought stickers today for working hard for me.  She is whip smart, knows all of her letters, and their sounds, as well as many, many numbers.  We’ve been working a bit on adding (up to 5), and clapping syllables.  At some point today, she chose a sticker of a rhinoceros.  “The rhinoceros, ‘rhino’ for short, has a horn on his nose,” she recites.  “Rhinoceros!” I say,  “How many syllables?”

“Rhi-no-cer-os!” she says with a clap for each syllable, as I toss a foam block onto the table for each clap.  She smiles broadly as she sees the blocks splay out in front of her.  She taps each block as she repeats each syllable, “Rhi-no-cer-os!”  she says, victorious.  “How many?” I ask.  “One-two-three-four!” she replies, tapping each block again. “Four!” she exclaims, triumphant.

I am just as excited, happy that I am able to help her make a connection, giving her something concrete to hold on to while she tackles these abstract concepts.  She makes my day. 🙂

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