First screening

The day finally came, the moment of truth. I always play with my husband saying “I am always right,” but this time I was hoping I wasn’t. The evaluation was done on a Monday morning and it took almost 3 hours. It was done in a big room, with some toys in the waiting area and a couple of smaller rooms to one side. Guto liked the ball pit they had and he played with a train set while we talked to the people that were waiting for us. He was going to be evaluated by an Occupational Therapist (OT) and by a Psychologist (PSY). We didn’t have a speech evaluation since we had done one not long before.

The OT told us to just let him play by himself while she observed. She gave me a questionnaire to fill out while she watched him. Later she took all of us to a smaller room where she again played with him. She asked some questions and gave him some things to do like put cheerios inside a cup, stack cubes, match things in a board, open a book and to our delight he did everything she asked of him.

During the PSY evaluation, in the same room we were before, he was given some things to play and look at, like a phone, a scarf to play peekaboo and an electric bunny, which he loved. The therapist would call him by his name, but he never answered. Then she made us call him as well, but he did not respond to us either. After observing him playing and the way he interacted during that time she asked us to wait outside while she talked to the other therapist to discuss their findings.

After what seemed to be a long time, but truly was not, they came out and talked to us. I can’t remember everything that they said, but some of things that made more of an impact I still remember and they are stuck in my head. “After watching him we believe he is in the autistic spectrum”, “he is very young so we are not going to choose a diagnosis yet”, “he has so many positives in his favor.” When we asked what made them conclude he was autistic they said the main reason was the fact he doesn’t answer when we called him by name. “Based on all the positive attributes we wondered if perhaps he had some other issuer, but there is nothing else that explained why he wouldn’t be answering when you called. So if it is not autism, then what is it?” I remember thinking so that was it! Just like that I felt my life had changed with the blink of an eye.

In a way I was relieved because at least now I was going to be able to get him the help that he needed, but on the other hand I was devastated. I had read so much about autism in the previous couple of weeks and nothing was very encouraging. When I self-diagnosed him I kept hoping I was wrong, but now I had experts telling me that more than likely I had been correct with my diagnosis.

I remember being calm when they told us what they were thinking and I remember asking them “Do you think he will be independent, will he be able to have a fairly normal life?” They told me they were very optimistic due to his positive traits, but I know they can’t guarantee anything, and that really is scary. I just needed someone telling me I didn’t need to worry, that everything would be okay, but how can you be certain? I remember them saying “you seem to be OK with that.” The truth is that I had been preparing myself for that moment for some time so I was calm and I probably looked okay from the outside, but I was not and I am still not. I wonder what they expected my reaction to be. Maybe if I had cried they would have been able to see that I was not okay inside, but they had no way of knowing I had been crying on a daily basis for over a month before that day. I had just accepted it.

Some of the other things that I asked included, “since he doesn’t have a definite diagnosis, does it make any difference as to what I need to do now? Will this delay treatment for him?” They assured me that it didn’t make any difference on what I should do from now on. Early intervention was definitely the most important task at hand. I needed to look for therapy providers and work on his weaknesses. The only time the lack of an autism diagnosis might interfere with his treatment would be when he is ready for school, in which case the system needs to know about his condition in order to get financial assistance if available. So a new evaluation will be done when he reaches the age of 4.

So we got a *r/o diagnosis of Autism, at least now we had something to work with. We could finally start seeking the help he needed.

*A rule out (r/o) diagnosis means that , in the eyes of the diagnostician (perhaps a psychologist or psychiatrist) the diagnosis in question is a distinct possibility, and warrants further exploration.