Slowly my inner light dimmed after Peter's birth in 2006. I avoided the pediatrician's office like the plague for fear I'd break down into tears. My husband would fill in for me when I couldn't show my face. The constant stress had turned my bright eyes glossy and my fragility became impossible to hide. I wanted answers and had none because my concerns were out of my pediatrician's scope of expertise. Why did my son smear his own poop on the walls? Why did he wake at night well into his second year? And why would he hit his preschool teacher? I wished I could've blamed it on the terrible twos so at least my misery would have an end time.
Our health insurance coverage was yet another barrier to finding answers. I took Peter to a developmental pediatrician and a psychiatrist, paying out of pocket, until he was finally diagnosed with autism at Emory in 2010, a few months shy of his fourth birthday. Since the diagnosis, I realized that the more things change, the more things stay the same.
Today, Peter's doctor checked him physically and then stared at his computer screen while going through a rote list: limit junk food, wear a bicycle helmet, eat more veggies with the family, and limit screen time. And in between doing so Peter confessed that he watches T.V. all day and only lets some bacteria into his teeth. Then he told him how my husband and I drink wine and how he doesn't really like the taste of beer that much. All the while I'm shushing him not to divulge our secrets or, at the very least, not to embellish them.
Lastly, the doctor asked me if I had any concerns. I did have concerns like Peter's ringing ears and moody behavior, both of which coincide with autism and sensory issues. The doctor seemed stumped and referred us to an E.N.T. I asked about how those issues relate to autism because I'd done some research prior to the appointment. The conversation all but stopped when the doctor told me he didn't know that Peter had autism. What an oversight!!!
I wasn't aware I had to retell his medical history at every appointment. I'd already discussed his diagnosis at previous appointments and given them the paperwork from Emory. Then the doctor asked where he was diagnosed as if it were a sham. Thank you Dr. Ding-Dong for proving my case when telling me that you "couldn't tell" my son had autism because he was verbal. Maybe it was my fault for expecting to get answers from a regular pediatrician trained in the seventies and who's clearly still in the dark about autism.
Just F.Y.I. doc...autism is a spectrum disorder meaning there are all types and my son happens to be the overly verbal kind. Why else would he share my drinking habits or talk about my husband's fake teeth? I want to let out my frustration, scream in the face of uniformed doctors, to release what I keep bottled up. If only that would help.