Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The “Is my kid OK?” filter

I have been blessed with two beautiful, healthy, amazing children. I am as lucky as a mom can be. But a few weeks ago, at my son’s preschool conference, his teacher recommended that I get him evaluated for developmental issues. She never said the words, but my instinct is that she is talking about Asperger’s. She’s not an expert—I may be more of an expert on autism spectrum disorders than she is (although I am not an expert either)—but she has worked with a lot of kids, and she thinks my kid’s behavior is different enough to warrant a further look.

It’s not like it was a shock. He is a twin. My daughter, while throwing as many tantrums and testing as much as the next kid, is clearly neurotypical, typically developing, or whatever politically correct word with “typical” in it you want to use. So I have a live-in age-matched control. But she’s a girl, and everyone knows that girls are different, and every child is different, and the 8,000 other trite things you tell yourself when you just want your kid to be OK.

We had him evaluated at 18 months for a possible language delay. He had one, but not enough to qualify for services through the county. And then a few months later, he had his language explosion and I felt silly for worrying. I kind of feel like this will be the same. But here’s what happens when you have some niggling doubts, and then someone else puts voice to them (in this case, the teacher). For me, at least, what happens is that now it feels like everything I see is running through a filter of “Is my kid OK?”

He’s potty trained. Check. Aspies usually train late. He likes physical comedy, choreographing and rehearsing his own pratfalls. Check. Aspies often have trouble with humor. He is super rigid in his routines and his tantrums are fairly epic. Red flag? Or is that just what three-year-olds are like? He likes to play alone. Um, so did I. He doesn’t like loud noises, or gooey textures. Yeah… apple, meet the tree. Except, except, except.

Except his teacher is worried, and she sees a lot of three-year-olds.

Every time I see him playing sweetly with his sister or his friends, I think, “Look at that. Cooperative play. He’s fine.” I think “he’s fine,” instead of just enjoying the moment of peace and sweetness. Every time he tells the same joke again… and again… I laugh, because it’s funny, but inside I cringe a little at the repetition and put a check in the “worry” column.

I know he will be OK. If he needs help, we will get him help. And he is healthy and beautiful and amazing. But the “Is my kid OK?” filter sucks. It just really sucks.


  1. I agree, my friend. And this filter applies to so many situations. I have four children, ages 10-19, one girl and three boys. Throughout my almost 20 years of parenting I've been guilty of gazing through 'the filter' way too much.

    Recently it's been related to my ten year old, who had a bad skateboard crash three weeks ago and suffered the first concussion of my parenting career.

    Not just a concussion. A serious concussion (and broken wrist) that landed him in the hospital for three days. So now every twinge of a headache he feels, I feel my brain whirring...wondering if it's concussion recovery related, or just annoyance with his irritating 15 year old brother. I dont know how to separate normal from 'injury related'.

    As a long term mama, I will give you this advice, that I have trouble sometimes taking myself. Trust your gut. Fight for evaluations or specialist visits, if you feel like you need them, and make no apologies. I've had many doctors, nurses and specialists tell me that it's wise to 'trust the mommies'...

    You know your kid. Fight for him, if it comes to that.

    Great post! I look forward to reading more. (esp loved the 10 things I wish someone had told me when I was 20!)


  2. Sounds like he has a number of "highly sensitive" characteristics - don't know if you know about that "label" - but it works for us, we're a houseful of them - check out my post on it