My oldest son is smart, funny, social, engaged and doing well in school. I also have a sneaking suspicion that something is going on with him, that he has some sort of "issue."
I don't know what I think it is. I've considered anxiety, an intolerance for frustration, executive function issues, a learning disability that is just starting to rear its head and also the possibility that he is a completely typical nine-year-old who is just kind of a jerk every once in a while.
Because my middle child has autism, I have learned a lot about these different ways of being. Often when I am reading, I will discover something that fits my oldest to a tee. I have spent a good deal of time in the past couple of years wondering if I should intervene somehow.
I also understand that med students are hypochondriacs and that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but every time I start to question myself on the fact that something is going on, I think back to a panel discussion I sat in on about a year ago.
At that conference, a man whose whole business is providing evaluations spoke about his experience with taking a harder look at kids like my oldest. He said that although school districts tend to dismiss parents of students like mine, the parents' instincts are usually on target.
"Where there's smoke, there's fire," he said.
It has taken a long time for my husband and I to get to the point where we were ready to have an evaluation done on my oldest son, but we are finally there. We decided to go the private route for his evaluation. Never for a second did I think that the school would do anything other than laugh if I told them I thought he needed to be evaluated. His teachers see him as a model student—and he is.
But that kid has some explosions at home that seem far outside the realm of reasonable. Then again, I've never had a nine-year-old before, so maybe they are perfectly reasonable. (See how I second guess myself?)
We finally talked to a psychologist and I listed every reason why I thought he needed to be evaluated. The psychologist, my husband and I agreed to have my son evaluated. We scheduled the appointments and left for a month, while we waited for evaluation week to roll around.
During that month, my son has been an angel. He has been delightful, helpful and not had any blow ups. I started to not just doubt that there was fire, but that there was smoke at all.
Then a couple days before his first appointment, I told him that he was going to miss half a day of school to go to the evaluation. That kid panicked. He started screaming. He started to list all of the things he was going to miss and how that was unacceptable. He tried to bargain into another option, and then he ran out of the room sobbing.
We are mid-evaluation now and I am very interested to see the results. I figure that the best case scenario is that we waste a ton of money and have a paper that says, "Your son is perfectly typical," that I can look at whenever I have doubts. The worst case scenario is that we discover that something is going on with him and we figure out how to help him deal with it now rather than when he is 30. That doesn't even sound like that much of a worst case. I think the real worst case would be leaving him with an issue that never got discussed or diagnosed.
I have spent so much time doubting myself and questioning whether something is going on with my son. I am so glad that phase is over. I feel peace now that we are taking action to find some answers.
Stimey writes a personal blog at Stimeyland; an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont; and a column called Autism Unexpected in the Washington Times Communities. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey. She believes rodents are funny, autism may be different than you think, and that if you have a choice between laughing and crying, you should always try to laugh—although sometimes you may have to do both.