Tuesday, January 10, 2017

When Janey was diagnosed

When reading accounts of parenting children with autism, the moment that the family receives the autism diagnosis is almost always written about in detail.  I was reading a few such accounts lately, and it struck me that, although Janey being diagnosed was certainly a fairly major point in the timeline of our lives, I don't remember it as being quite as stark a blow, as frozen in time a moment as often seems to be the case.  I didn't remember the date until going back to the first entry of this blog---it was Saturday, December 8th, 2007.  Janey was three years and almost four months old.

I started thinking tonight about that time, and it became clear to me quickly why it seems a bit of a blur in memory.  It was a horrible time, in many ways---I can say Janey's diagnosis was one of the least troubling parts of the months around that time.  The month before, in November, I had been put on a jury of a murder trial, an incredibly sad murder of a four year old boy.  It lasted three weeks, putting a huge strain on everyone emotionally and logistically.  Janey had started 3 year old preschool in September, half a day, at the school the boys had both gone to, as a regular, non-special-ed student.  So someone had to get her in the middle of the day at school.  Tony missed a lot of work.

While I was on the jury, in the middle of the testimony phase, my sister's fiancee died suddenly.  He had been recovering from heart surgery related to Marfan's Syndrome, and it looked like all was going to be okay.  Getting the call that he had died---I can't even think about it, ever, without crying. The sadness I felt for my sister, and the incredible frustration that I couldn't even go to the funeral, couldn't be there for her as I wished I could without disrupting a huge trial----it is with me still.

Other factions were stressing us strongly during this time.  A very close friend from childhood was going through a family crisis that I won't get into except to say it was the worst family crisis you can possibly imagine outside of a death.  The boys were in 5th and 7th grade, both having a somewhat tough year.  Tony's office was on the verge of closing, and he was looking for a new job within his organization.  And in the background, always, there was the creeping realization that something was happening with Janey, something terrifying.

Janey, about a year after diagnosis
I wish I could remember more about the year Janey was two.  If I had known it was the last year she would talk easily, the last year I'd have a conversation with her, the last year she'd seem truly happy---well, I can't write much about that.  I just wish I'd recorded every minute of that year.  Then again, maybe it's good I didn't.  I have never been able to watch the few videos we do have.

The August before Janey started preschool, we took our three week cross country driving trip.  I've written about that before.  I had started noticing some signs of withdrawal, of odd behaviors, in Janey that June, but it was during the trip she seemed to slip further away.  The day she started school, I asked the special ed teacher in the room (her school was an inclusion school, with a regular and a special ed teacher in each room) to let me know if he had concerns about her.  It was, of course, during the middle of the trial, on an afternoon we had off, so I was able to get her at school, that he told me he did have concerns---quite major concerns.

And so---we got on the fast track to have her seen at a clinic.  She was evaluated (after I filled out realms of paper and did lots of phone interviews) by a developmental psychiatrist and a developmental pediatrician.  And that was the day, that Saturday, that they told us she was autistic.  We got a formal report later on, but by that point, they didn't need a lot of time to see what was pretty obvious, so they told us the same day they saw her.

I don't remember the rest of that day.  I don't remember crying, although I'm sure I did.  I don't remember what we did after the visit.  I don't remember much.  Maybe that is why I started the blog, three days later, to start recording what was happening, to not let it slip away like the first three years of her life seem to have in my mind.

In some ways, maybe it was good that her diagnosis came in the middle of such a stressful time.  Maybe it let us not focus on it.  But I think it also didn't let it quite sink in.  For a variety of reasons, I don't think I truly believed it.  I think I thought we'd have some tough years, sure, but I think there was a part of me that felt it all was a mistake, that I'd play along but not really buy into it all.  Maybe that was my way of coping.

I'm going to write soon about what I wish those early days after her diagnosis had been like, and what I'd do if I knew someone going through early days like that.  But for now I will stop, because I want to come back to the here and now.  I'm glad many years have passed from that time, and our lives are calmer.  I'm glad I will never have to relive 2007.  I'm glad to be here, in 2017, living today's life.  Very glad.

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