We Have to Talk About Robert

Autism?

Robert is a lover. He’s the sweetest little boy with an amazing imagination. He loves his trains and is working SO hard to finish his reading list for Book-it.

But, there is something wrong with him.

I have a hard time saying that because he will always be absolutely perfect to me, but there is something wrong with him.

The turning point in my awareness of this situation came on Thursday morning when I took the boys to the hospital for their routine ultrasounds. “Belly Pictures” are never fun and I am prepared for a fair bit of whining. We have to get up early, they can’t eat or drink, and the waiting room is notoriously boring and stressful. (Whoever had the idea of putting the OR waiting room and the imaging waiting room together needs to spend a day there. People waiting for loved ones in major surgery are stressed and scared and have little patience for boisterous walk-in traffic waiting for ultrasounds.) But, Robert was over the top.

He was torturing his siblings, calling names, trying to destroy hospital property, kicking, hitting, biting, and yelling. As I was sitting on the floor with him, holding him in a bear hug while he grunted and struggled to get away and continue kicking people and furniture, I looked up at Peter and Aili. Peter was quietly playing a puzzle game on my phone and Aili was “reading” a Good Housekeeping magazine that had been left on a table. They were occasionally fidgety, but they were age-appropriate. Robert was struggling and giving me his favorite under the breath “angry chant” of, “You shut up. You shut up. You shut up.”

It was worse once we got to the actual room with the ultrasound equipment. Robert kept trying to escape. He kicked me in the shins until I bruised when I blocked the door and he continued his chant. He eventually calmed enough to get on the table, but for a while I thought we weren’t going to be able to get any ultrasound work done on him.

In my completely untrained opinion, this looked like autism. He is having a comfort or sensory issue (in a bright, busy hospital and he’s hungry) and he’s losing all control over himself. Autism? ASD? I was fighting back tears as I watched him. Is autism the end of the world? Absolutely not! He’s a smart boy, but what kind of hurdles is he going to have that his siblings don’t? How can I help him? Is he going to always kick and hit me when he is angry or over-whelmed? What happens when my adorable six year old turns in to an enormous 16 year old? What if it’s something else? Autism has treatment paths and experts (and Jenny McCarthy *puke*), but what if it is some Other Unknown?

Once we left the hospital, Robert had his oatmeal and yogurt. After eating, he was his normal, happy self. The difference between a monster and a pleasant little boy is exactly 1 container of oatmeal and a fruit-and-yogurt parfait. Wow.

But, I am left with complete uncertainty now. It’s time to re-visit having him formally evaluated, I guess.

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One thought on “We Have to Talk About Robert

  1. First I want to say that I am so happy you’re back. I love your blog. Then I want to encourage you to look into distributive mood deregulation disorder. It is a new diagnosis in the recently released DMS 5, which doesn’t go into clinical usage until 8/2014. Based on what you say about Roberts social skills and level of warmth and empathy, I’m thinking if he were ASD he would be extremely high functioning. Regardless of what his struggles end up being the good thing is you recognized them early and you can link him to the help he needs.

    -Jacki MS MFT PC

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