This week we signed the papers to initiate an evaluation. "For autism," said the special educator, making an X near the signature line on one particular form. As we signed I wondered how many parents hear that word so baldly stated and want to correct him. No, no, I think you made a mistake. You don't mean autism. You mean Asperger's. Or "something on the spectrum." Or...I know what: quirky. How about you just write quirky? And put in "delightfully" if there's room.
This is not a new idea, that something's going on with Charlie more complex than "doesn't feel like listening" or "harmless goofballing" or "overindulgent parents, Jesus, did you hear them?" even though any of those might be concomitant. Autism? ADHD? ODD? NVLD? OMGSRSLY? Yeah, sure, maybe, I guess. Throw 'em on the stack, whatever consonants you have, and let's just please find out.
And "Let's just please find out" is not a new request. He's seen his pediatrician, two OTs, and a neurologist; the school counselor, the support specialist, the special educators. In fact, for the last six months the school has been doing its due diligence to determine whether the lower-level interventions they provide as a matter of course might be sufficient. While it could have been stopped at any point if the smile charts and sensory breaks and social coaching had shown much promise, the process has been in motion for some time now. This is simply its culmination.
So we are accustomed to the idea that there's something, whatever it'll ultimately be called. (I call it "I just want my kid to make it through the school day in the company of his classmates having learned something without an outburst." The eventual DSM-VI is going to be all over that shit.) We know we need some help.
And yet there's something about signing, about taking the pen in hand and making that mechanical squiggle, saying, "Yes, please classify my child," that feels like standing over Pandora's Box, reading the packing list carefully, and then asking for a crowbar. Like we're setting something big and possibly dangerous in motion without knowing how it works. Simultaneously like we're doing absolutely the right thing for our child, and like we're selling him down the river.