Last night I got a message from a friend that she had met with her son’s school psychologist to go over his evaluation. It’s a goddamn nightmare if your kid has autism. You feel like Joe Frazier staring down a Muhammad Ali right hook and there’s no where to duck. She was distraught…
If you have a kid with autism you are subject to these lovely evals periodically by the school psychologist. Don’t be a schmuck and do this privately. They tell you that their psychologists are experts in getting info out of our kids so the eval will be “better”, “more accurate”. Typically, however, the tester is just a PhD candidate trying to finish their thesis while testing your kid. We had one about 2 years ago, privately, yes we paid about $3000 for this; Bryan was 9, they told us his language was that of a 5-year-old. WOW. Time for me to retreat to that little dark place called Mommy Hell.
Here is the thing: We know that we need to have these evals done. They are important to get us moving. We know that we need to hear it straight, but it seriously is like going 5 rounds with the champ. He may never live on his own, bam, he can’t do simple things like tie a shoe, bam bam, he is very immature and has serious behavioral challenges. TKO. Where does one go from here? For many other moms I know and for me, we take it so personally. There must be something I am not doing. I am a bad mom, I am deficient, it cuts you to the core. It is excruciating to try to make some sort of peace between being the kids mom and being his therapist, teacher, SLP, OT, tutor, etc. All parents have trouble hearing negative things about their child; I feel the difference is that because autism is so gray, and treatment so uncertain, there are no real roadmaps to help you help your child. You are the quarterback without a playbook, it’s 3rd and 10 with a minute on the clock. If you miss the receiver, game over. If you score, well you are a hero. Ok, don’t want to beat the analogy to death.
So what do you do after a psych eval? Short term: tequila, xanax, etc. pick your numbing poison. A good cry can help but these are the short-term zone out things that help no one really. For me I need to think, seriously think about what they are saying and what can be done next. Earl and I talk these things through, let it sit for a little while, then work on a plan of action. You might think this would get easier over time, but I find it’s just the opposite. Perhaps it’s because you have already done a lot, tried a lot and feel deflated. When the kids are small you feel like, “oh wow, he’s just a little kid, he will get better, we’ve got time.” Now you’re staring down the teen years and thinking, geez, we are running out of time to make big changes. I thought he would be much farther along by now. That’s the key to it. Each time you have one of these meetings you get knocked down, the stitches of your healing heart are ripped out. Remember how you felt the first time you were in love and that relationship ended? It’s that one, that feeling of despair, hopelessness, and nausea all rolled into one. The real issue is the uncertainty of how all of the things that you do and try will play out for your child.