Dear Amalah,

I wrote to you several months ago about getting my little boy speech therapy (Dispatches from Speech Delay Island). Thank you and all your commenters for the kindness and encouragement. A lot has happened since then. My son started going to speech therapy twice weekly and, basically, made very little progress for several months. Around his second birthday, in February, his speech therapist suggested having him evaluated for Early Intervention (EI). So, we did. It was awful. He hated the evaluation, I hated watching the evaluation because it forced me to be aware of all the things he wasn’t doing. Before the evaluation, I worried he wouldn’t qualify. After the evaluation… well. Wasn’t that silly. Over fifty percent delays in multiple areas, significant delays in the rest.

So, on top of speech therapy, we started meeting with an EI consultant and his dad takes him to a special needs playgroup weekly. His language has improved somewhat since then – receptive is better, he tries to imitate words when we prompt him to, and there are about ten words he’ll say spontaneously – but it’s slow going. Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago, his EI worker brought up autism, as in, she believes he has it, now that she’s gotten to know him. And, really, I agree. It’s like he got to age one and just stopped in some respects, and even went backwards in others – particularly awareness/enjoyment of other people. I’ve been reading non-stop since then and looking at him more clearly, I think. Not clinging so much to every time he smiles or makes eye contact as proof that he doesn’t have autism, but seeing that in the context of a child who rarely responds to his name, who doesn’t really share joint attention, and who was absolutely miserable at the splash park yesterday when every other single kid his age just KNEW how to play and have fun there.

Anyhow, my question isn’t so much about next steps. He’s already in speech and EI and we’re going to get a referral to occupational therapy (OT). We’ll look at getting an official evaluation and diagnosis when he’s closer to three. The question is more about handling my emotions relative to seeing him around neurotypical kids his age. It’s, well, awful. Family get togethers. Playgrounds. Seeing kids that are much younger than him who are at his level or more advanced, seeing kids his age or a little older who seem to be a whole different species of child. When we’re at home and I’m just playing with and enjoying him, I’m fine, but after an outing that involves other toddlers I’m pretty well a wreck. I can keep it together in the moment, but later on I just feel so very raw and cracked, emotionally, for quite a long time. So, what I need to know is, is this going to get better? Are there things I can do to make it better? I try to focus on what he can do instead of what he can’t, and I love him so much, but it just plain hurts. Scared and sad and shocked all over again. He needs to be around other children his age, and I want that for him. I want to be able to watch him with other children and just be able to accept who he is without hurting so much. I don’t know how to do that, yet.

Thank you,
Trying to Be Okay
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