Wednesday, 4 July 2012
My Son's Report Has Arrived
That evening he played ball with the other children. He shook with excitement when he swooped in to kick the ball and flapped his hands back and forth rapidly. The other kids played with him and he will either kick the ball or pick it up and gently deliver it back to its owner. The young soccer player who owned the ball thought he was a sweetheart.
After two minutes of play the other kids continued playing but he broke off and went to a bush alongside the perimeter to tickle it with his hands and feel the leaves brush against his face. He's big on sensation. Sometimes he hurts himself and doesn't seem to register the pain. He would hug and embrace the branches and crouch down in the quiet darkness of a cavity inside the bush. There was silence for about a minute and then I heard a gentle whisper "Dada, here... Dada." I crouched down to join him and he would gave me a kiss on my face and then a light switch went off in his head. His body tensed up with extreme excitement and shook - he squealed with delight and returned to playing ball for one minute with the children - then back to the bush for two - then back to the ball.
He's three months short of three years old. He just started putting words together into phrases. Almost always one of three or four verbs and a single direct object or indirect object. Lots of pointing. Lots of gesturing and grunting still. I can remember I was so happy when he did put together a phrase - so relieved - I still am.
In the bush I heard a quiet whisper "Go... swing." I need to carry him to the swings because his feet are too sensitive to the sand. I plopped him into the seat and pushed him - his eyes glazed over fixed somewhere into the horizon as he settled into his zone. He doesn't really smile or laugh when I push him - well very rarely - but he will get upset when I stop. In the silence I thought of a half an hour earlier.
I had gotten home and checked the mail and there it was. The official ADOS report diagnosing him with being firmly on the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorders) scale. The results weren't a surprise. The psychologist had already shared them with us weeks ago and they only confirmed something we had suspected for months. My wife knew since almost the beginning. This report is the ticket to important and urgently needed government funding for speech therapy, socialization skills and behavioural therapy that apparently do wonders if applied early on - if they are applied within this critical window.
He's one point shy of the cut-off for autism which puts him in a highly functioning mostly undefined nebulous region that could be pretty much anything. The spectrum is broad and varied. No two kids on it are truly alike. When I see other kids with full blown autism, I can't help but feel lucky that he is where he is on the spectrum - then I feel a little guilty for taking this comfort at someone else's expense. It's selfish but I can't help it.
Today I started thinking about how it might have been like if I had remained Catholic and had to deal with this. To the very bottom of my heart I am happy that I do not believe in the existence of any god. I honestly don't know how people of faith can deal with situations like this - but the closer I go to the spot I was at when I believe in faith the more pain and confusion I feel inside.
What would I say to myself knowing that there is someone out there who caused this to happen or let it happen. Someone who knows why it happened but doesn't care to share this information. Who would I blame? Myself? God? No, it couldn't be God's fault.
If God existed and is all-powerful, what are his motives here? I really wonder how religious people handle this. Do they start out confused or angry at their god and then, through exhaustion, lose the strength to hate and move on to forgive and then eventually start equivocating? It's a special gift. It's to give us strength. God has his purpose. He will be cured in Heaven. Would he be the same little boy in Heaven?
I don't know. But something I do know is that if God did exist I would despise him with all my strength and demand he help my child.
I love this child with all my heart but I would change parts of him if I could. I would improve his speech, I would help him along socially, remove his compulsive oral fixation that causes him to eat all kinds of crazy things. I would strengthen his coping mechanisms. In short, I would do what I will do - give him the best help science can provide. What parent wouldn't? If God existed he would be the cause of the problem, not the solution.
The materialist Atheistic understanding of reality relieves me of confusion and brings me the comfort of at least knowing what wasn't the cause. It wasn't the act of some big mysterious God. It was the result of natural unthinking processes.
Now I don't have as many questions that can never get answered. I have nobody to blame, nobody to question, nobody to hate. I have nobody to petition those long nights - pleading for a miracle or at least some progress. I have nobody to fall back on but myself, my wife and the team of professionals we shall amass around this little guy to bring him to his full potential. It is not a god that will help him be all that he can be ever in this only life he has to live - it is us humans. I am doing what fathers do, my wife is doing what mothers do, we are all doing what humans do.
He has had enough with the swing and I let him run around the park for another five minutes before putting him in his stroller to go home. He screams bloody murder for five minutes and then settles down with the rhythmic thud of the concrete sidewalk blocks moving under the wheels. I let him walk up the stairs into the house - he's so proud of this and I am too! - and I bring him into the bathroom. I begin to wash the dirt from his feet with his washcloth. I realize that for the first time he actually walked on the sand himself for awhile in the park. It's a small achievement but an achievement nonetheless.
He reaches out and takes my head with his hand and looks into my eyes with a mischievous grin. Pulling my ear to his mouth and leaning forward at the same time, he begins to whisper little noises into my ear. Not real words, just whispering noises. I think he saw this in a cartoon recently - we both enjoy playing this little game. When he's done whispering his secret he crouches down with his hand on his mouth, giggles and says Shhhhhh! We both laugh. I love this charming little guy - I love him as he is.
Then I feel something wet on my arm. He smiles and says quietly "Clean Dadda". As he rubs the wet washcloth on my arm I realize he's cleaning me.