Yesterday I met Joey*, super adorable kid with wide eyes and eyelashes us ladies would pay hundreds of dollars for.
Joey came with his parents and 8 month old brother to the surgery clinic next door for his dad’s appointment.
My clinic was super slow, and I just couldn’t resist the urge to take a sticker to the child that said “Hi” to everyone. As I looked at Joey I guessed that he was probably three years old and would love the Pooh Bear and Tigger sticker I held in my hand. I approached Joey with the sticker and asked him his name.
I was met with an unintelligible response.
Immediately I thought ‘oops maybe he is younger than I thought’.
I tried to hand him the sticker again but he was incredibly focused on pulling my badge over and over again.
It was like the sticker didn’t exist.
Then I asked his mother his age.
He will be three next month.
Joey had a lot of energy, which could mean trouble in a small exam room, so I told his mom that he could hang out with me in the lobby while they saw the physician.
They were both very grateful.
Joey and I hung out and said “Hi” to everybody about 100 times, seriously. We walked up and down the hallway quite a few times. We attempted to color but Joey had a very hard time holding the crayon, while I tried to help him grasp it, I noticed nails that probably haven’t been cut for a month.
You all have to know where I am going with this…
During our time together Joey would speak to me in his own special way or repeat exactly what I said. His only intelligible words were “Hi” and “Bye” and it seemed that the only thing that really held his attention was my darn badge. So I let him wear it and watched as he delighted in pulling it over and over.
Joey was very familiar to me.
He reminded me of my Diego.
As I sat attempting to engage him, I wondered if his parents ever thought about the big ‘A’.
He finally got bored with my badge, and I had some Play-Doh, but figured that we should ask his parents before we broke it out.
I took Joey with me into the exam room to talk to his mom and dad about the Play-Doh and we all got to talking. It turned out that they just moved here a month ago from Miami for dad’s job and then 2 weeks ago dad had this significant, but manageable medical setback. I asked them if English was Joey’s first language ( the family was Indian), dad said no and then went on to explain that Joey just had a speech evaluation.
All I thought was, here is my chance!!
So I said “My son had a speech delay similar to Joey’s, he was diagnosed with autism last year.”
I waited, half expecting mom or dad to be absolutely livid for my implying that Joey might have autism.
But neither one was.
Joey’s dad replied that the speech therapist mentioned that Joey might have autism and that they were currently waiting on the regional center to contact them for a developmental assessment. Mom and dad both mentioned how lost they felt having just moved here and not knowing how to navigate the system.
Well the flood gates a.k.a. my mouth opened and all I knew spewed forth.
I gave them info on the C3 program here in SD that would get Joey in much sooner for a developmental assessment than the regional center, as well as info on free speech programs here to get Joey started while they were waiting for the regional center. Their insurance told them that they don’t cover speech therapy so I also told them that I would love to help them navigate their insurance company.
I fight with those bastards everyday.
We talked for a bit about what autism might look like, discussed some of Joey’s behaviors, and the epidemic of autism
Then dad blew me away and asked if I had any advice for them.
I chuckled, as I am a novice at this entire autism thing and probably not one to give advice. But I stopped, thought for a minute, and told them to expect that it would be hard, that they would have to fight, that it could be quite isolating, but that Joey is amazing, special, has amazing potential,and that they are strong enough to lead him. I tried my best not to cry as Joey’s mom and dad asked me for my contact info and I was probably too eager as I gave them the info and said to call me anytime.
Even if just to talk.
I ‘get it’.
We parted ways about an hour, three hugs, and two kisses from Joey (which mom said is very unusual for him 🙂 ) later.
My faith has suffered a lot the past year, but even I can admit that this was not a coincidence.
*name changed for obvious privacy reasons*