So I mentioned this last week, and thought I would share this experience with you. My wife a few months back had brought my little pal to the pediatricians for his checkup, and he was deemed physically healthy, but his doctor thought he was a bit behind in his speech development (I agree somewhat with that assessment), and was not making sufficient eye contact for his liking (seriously dude, you are stabbing him with needles, are you surprised he's not looking lovingly in your eyes and saying what a great guy you are??). At the doctors suggestion, we made an appointment with some specialists to ascertain what, if anything, was going on.
December rolls around, and my wife, son, and myself are off to see said specialists on the 17th. Both of us are somewhat leery of the idea that our little man might have some sort of disorder, his doctor thinks he "may be on the bubble" of the autistic spectrum. I think my pediatrician might be "on the bubble" of losing some patients.
We get to the facility, and are ushered into a small, drab, brown room that is littered with what had to be the saddest, most depressing collection of dirty lame ass toys I have ever seen. Sitting on one of the tiny, dirty, children's chairs is the specialist...kind of an older hippy type lady. Her intention was to engage the little guy in play, and try to get a handle on where he was developmentally.
Now, I want to make this clear. Nate's health and well being are of the utmost importance to me. When his doctor made his suggestion, both my wife and I felt it was incumbent upon us to follow through with his suggestions, to do otherwise would be a disservice to our son, and in the end, what is the point of taking him to the doctors if your not going to do as they suggest. Much like in the IT world, when someone calls me about an issue, and I tell them why it's happening, and they say something along the lines of "hmm I don't think that's it". If you know so much about what's going on, why the fuck did you call me?
For the next 45 minutes this woman engaged Nate in what can only be described as the least fun form of play I have ever seen. At one point, she plopped a clothe less baby doll, just a creepy plastic head and a dirty cloth body up on the table in the room, and then, from under her chair, she pulls out a plastic bag containing a lump of old, dry, once white, but now streaked with grey, cracked pile of play dough. Just looking at the dough made me sad inside. She takes this lump, and presses down on it, causing cracks and fissures to form on the sides, as all moisture has long since left this depressing, circa 1970's lump of dog poop. Pressing 3 wooden sticks into, she starts cooing in a high pitched voice "Look Nathan! It's the baby's birthday!! We made a birthday cake for the baby!!!". Never have I been so proud of my little man when he looked her right in the eye, and said "yeah, that's play dough". Three more times she tried to get him to do this, and three times she was denied. That was not a cake. That was a sadness patty.
We left the doctors office kind of annoyed with the appointment. But were really upset when a few weeks later we got the written assessment. The doctor had determined that Nate was PPD-ONS, or Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. I diagnose the specialist with BULLSHIT. Tell me, how can you diagnose, after just 45 minutes in a depression chamber, playing games that NO CHILD OF ANY AGE would play, a child with something as serious and life changing as autism? Is Nate behind on his speech? Yes, a little bit, but as I understand it, boys tend to be just that. Was Nate not making eye contact with the hippy lady? Yes, but to be honest, I can't blame him one bit, she was creepy and weird. Did Nate not engage in the kind of play that this woman wanted him to? No he did not, but I challenge you to find any kid, of any age, play the god awful "games" that this weirdo had laid out. In the assesment it stated that Nate would not engage in an activity or conversation if he was not interested in it. No fucking shit lady, neither do I, or anyone I know for that matter unless it's work related. I only do shit I like to do when I am 'playing'. Sheesh!
At one point, she asked us why we didn't see his affinity for traffic signs as odd behavior, and a warning flag that something might be wrong. That really got me steamed, his affinity for signs has been a great tool for us to teach him letters, colors and shapes, and while for a bit there he was bordering on obsessive behavior, he has totally backed off of that now, and only talks about his street signs when he is stressed out (like when we were at this appointment!). I mean, at the end of the day, how is his clinging to a stop sign toy any different than another child clinging to their 'blanky'? There is no difference in my eyes. My boy is fine.
We have decided not to pursue this further. As his parents, we have the right to refuse the diagnosis. And funny thing is, the milestones that the doctors were pointing out that our little friend had not hit? He hit them about 2 weeks after his appointment, suck on that hippy. Autism is real, and tragic if a child has it, especially the more sever cases. But when every little boy in your neighborhood has been diagnosed with some kind of autism, that's a red flag to me. Something is not right with the system.