“Your Son is Autistic.” Kyle’s Diagnosis

A New Pediatrician

It’s amazing what a pediatrician switch can do. When I took Kyle to meet his new doctor, she listened intently as I described all of my observations. She took notes and asked questions. She spoke to Kyle and observed him as he stared into space, smiling and twiddling his fingers. Immediately she gave me a list of referrals.

Kyle’s Evaluation

Within a week I had an appointment at the Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where Kyle met with a doctor specializing in childhood neurological disorders. I was given an interview, where I described all the symptoms I saw: Kyle’s obsession with lining up items, his mysterious laughter, his severe tantrums, and his strange ability to shut out sounds. (Kyle had already received a hearing evaluation by an audiologist with normal results.)

Kyle was asked to play with toys, stack blocks, and draw pictures. He stacked the blocks easily, without thought. But he stood the choo-choo train on its nose, rather than pushing it along. And he twisted the baby blanket and dropped it on the floor, rather than covering the doll. When asked to draw himself, he carefully drew three worms from a computer game. He uttered a few phrases, but most were lines from movies and had nothing to do with what was going on in the room.

The Diagnosis

“Your son is autistic.” I remember when she said the words I was surprised, and yet I had known all along. I had studied autism back in high school, and knew all the classic symptoms. But I had become very adept at explaining away the things I saw in Kyle and refused to make the connection.

The doctor wrote several more referrals, including the one which became the greatest source of help and instruction I have received to this day: The University of California, San Diego’s Autism Laboratory.

Crossing the Mojave Desert

On the drive home, I cried. My son was autistic. Now there was no doubt. I shed tears of relief that the guessing and worrying were over. Yet I also cried for the loss of my perfect “dream” child. I cried in fear of the future, wondering how this puzzling disorder would affect my son, his life, our lives. It felt as though I had just been told I had to cross the Mojave Desert on foot. But at least I was armed with telephone numbers and contacts. I had been given the “map,” so I could begin the journey. The mysterious fog had lifted.