Specialty Pediatrician Visit
Today is the day we've been waiting for... Actually, I have been waiting for. Everyone else in the family seems to think today is the day I get confirmation Piper isn't Autistic and my paranoia will finally be put at ease. The drive to the Pediatrician who specializes in children disorders and mainly Autism was a nervous one. I kept thinking.... "What if I'm wrong? Then I'm a horrible mother for even thinking something is wrong." In my heart though, I knew Piper was going to be on the spectrum. I've heard different advice from people saying "Don't get her diagnosed. She'll grow out of it. You don't want to ruin her life with the stigma and title of Autism following her forever!" I decided Stigma or not, this was something I needed to do for her, for all of us. I needed to know if we're doing things right for her, I needed to know if I would ever hear her speak again. I sat down in this office with Piper waiting for the Pediatrician and she immediately wanted to go to places she wasn't allowed and right on time under 10 minutes a wild tantrum broke out. He comes out and says "Bring her on back, don't worry about the tantrum. Just place her on the floor and let her finish it" I always did that at my home, but to hear someone so calmly say that was like a breath of fresh air. He looked down at his papers in front of him, not even phased by the commotion being caused right behind him. "So, tell me, why are you here Mrs. Harvey" I looked at him almost sheepish "I believe my daughter may be Autistic, but I'm not sure because she looks at me and I read that most children on the specturm don't make eye contact" He asked me a lot of questions mainly about her birth and wanted to hear stories of why I've come to this conclusion of Autism. He observed Piper for over an hour as she played with toys, he 'tried' to examine her (what a fight that was), and he would have me do different things with her. At the end of a 2 hour session (almost movie like) he says "So, do you believe your daughter is Autistic?" (I think to myself, isn't that why I said I was here?) I answer "yes" and he looks at me straight in the eyes and says "So do I." I didn't cry - I got that out of the way when the lady that looks after Piper confirmed my suspicions after reading about Autism weeks prior. He then looks at me and says the most painful thing a mother can ever hear "You said you didn't know if she was Autistic because she looks at you. (He grabs my hand) What we look for is genuine eye contact, and in the whole 2 hours you've been here, not once has your daughter really looked at you. She's merely acknowledged you're there, but she doesn't give you genuine eye contact" He demonstrated this with another 2 year old that was in the waiting room. He asked this child to come in his office. "Brian how are you?" Brian looked at the doc and said "Fine" The doc then said are you with your mum outside? Brian "Yes" Okay, you can go sit down Brian I will be with you in a minute. Brian walks back outside. He said "That is genuine eye contact" Your daughter looks through you, not at you - she looks at you because you make a noise but she's not genuinely looking at you. She is in her own world." At that moment my heart broke in a million different pieces. I could deal with the diagnosis of Autism, but to hear that my daughter doesn't even "see" me... like really see me. There is nothing worse than that, and words can't ever describe how that felt.
Don't worry, he said the behavior is something we can teach her. I don't diagnose Autism, I can but I choose to let a team of 4 work together to do it so we can appropriately place Piper on the spectrum. You will start to get letters in the mail that will start the process they will do home visits, hospital visits, hearing tests, speech therapy, sensory observation, etc... He was very nice and said "Piper is one of the lucky ones, you've caught it early enough that we can make a significant impact on her life, and what children her age normally pick up on themselves, Piper will have to learn, you will have to teach her. But considering she has only just turned 2, this gives us a lot to work with." I walked to my car in a bit of a daze thinking "she doesn't look at me" in the car I kept trying to get her to engage in my eyes like that little boy did. It didn't happen. This is what made me tearful, not the diagnosis of Autism, but the fact my 2 year old precious miracle daughter doesn't truly look at me. Let the journey begin!
Erika & Dan Harvey
A blog about our journey through the spectrum with our daughter Piper. Enjoy and feel free to share with others.