I was surprisingly calm through out the forty-five minute drive to the clinic. No part of me thought we would be leaving this evaluation with anything but an appointment for the next. Honestly, I thought we would be driving home with everything over – with no need for further evaluation. I was expecting an “all clear”, with a kiddo that was just very, very active and just a bit behind in speech.
Every part of me was calm during that drive. For whatever reason, the moment we entered that clinic, the second we walked through the door, my entire body tensed. Every muscle ached and I compulsively held Eli closer to me. Something changed the moment the receptionist handed me the forms to fill out. They were all so nice but I could barely speak. Dr. L brought us back to her office and Eli held fast to his Thomas trains, keeping Percy the number six engine pressed against his chest. He stood in the center of the room for a few minutes, just looking, taking it all in. Toys were all over – a play kitchen, blocks, cars. He held onto his trains.
Dozens upon dozens of questions were asked. We both watched Eli’s every move – watched as he pretended to talk on the kitchen phone. Dr. L repeatedly tried to get him to use a block to do the same thing; he just looked at her confused. Eventually he handed her a train, telling her hello. Letting her know he was comfortable. I watched as he entered his own world and looked on quietly as she tried to draw him out of it. I saw things I hadn’t seen before – or that I just hadn’t noticed. I noticed that he didn’t look at her for the first twenty minutes in that room. Not until he handed her one of his trains. That’s when he looked at her for the first time. I had never really thought about how that is how he always is. I noticed his fascination with covering those trains again and again. I noticed how he would lay his face flat on the ground and study every angle of his lined up trains. When Dr. L put those papers on her lap and leaned towards me, I knew what she was about to tell me. Every piece of my heart knew that she was about to tell me that my baby wasn’t like every other three-year-old. I knew that our lives were about to change. I knew it when we walked through that door. I knew it for a long time – I just hadn’t let myself “know”. My heart was breaking while I listened to the words, the explanation, the reasoning, and all I could do was watch my little blonde giant lay flat on the floor with his trains.
For just a moment, I felt relief. For just a moment, I didn’t feel like a failure as a mother. I felt that I had a reason for not being able to calm him down, to just understand my son. I felt guilt and sadness and despair and relief – all in the exact same moment.
My baby is not like every other three-year-old. He has high-functioning autism. He is sensory-seeking, loving, cuddly and smart. And with this diagnosis, we will find the way to make him thrive.