“It’s okay,” the nurse continued, “Just tell me what this is.”
Declan looked slightly up from the ground and then to the wall. He turned his head to the side and looked back at the ground.
We were at the Dr.’s office for his 6-year-old well visit. As a part of this visit, Declan was having his eyes and ears checked as well.
I realized what was happening right away. The nurse was a stranger. Declan did not like looking at her. And as she was pointing to the eye chart of shapes, Declan was having a hard time getting past the stranger and figuring out what she wanted him to do.
“Okay, Declan,” I said. “Let’s try this.”
I walked up to the board and blocked the nurse.
“Look at me.”
Decan’s eyes came to meet mine.
“Look at this chart.”
I pointed to the top line of figures.
“This is a house. This is a heart. This is a square. This is a circle. Okay?”
“Good. Now just look at the chart, follow the finger and say what you see.”
I stepped out-of-the-way and the nurse came into Declan’s view. Declan’s head went down, but his eyes stayed up to see the chart.
“Can you tell me what this is.” The nurse continued and pointed to the shape.
And a few minutes later, Declan was deemed to have very good eyesight.
The nurse had only met Declan a few minutes before for the first time. And found similar responses when she stood over him to check his hearing.
His head was practically in his lap to avoid seeing her. When asked to clap when he heard the sound, Declan sat still. I turned his chair and demonstrated what he needed to do. The clapping to sound began. Declan was deemed to have very good hearing as well.
I was thankful I was there. I could help the nurse gather the information she was requesting and I was able to help Declan understand and respond.
It got me thinking, though. What if I wasn’t there?
In this case, I am sure the nurse would’ve tried another approach. Or maybe she would’ve indicated more testing was needed.
But it broached another subject area of concerns.
Processing Verbal Information and Autism
The testing at the Dr.’s office made me think of this sticker:
Or this sticker posted on cars in case of an emergency:
And then led to the list of “what if’s?”
What if a group of children on the playground are trying to play a game with rules, which Declan doesn’t understand and therefore doesn’t follow?
What if the lunch lady is telling Declan to pick an item, put it on his tray, move his tray down and then go pay for his lunch?
What if he was ever in an emergency and needed to follow directions from a first responder?
Autism involves problems with socializing and communication. Processing what one hears is a large part of social communication. I had Declan seen by a private speech therapist not only to help him speak, but to try to learn ways for him to comprehend what I was trying to say to him.
I picked up on Declan’s problems processing speech. I learned he wasn’t trying to be difficult. He just didn’t understand the words people around him were saying to him.
But what about the kids on the playground? The lunch lady? First responders? Without knowing Declan, or that Declan is affected by autism, one is more likely to conclude he is difficult, a bad child that will not comply with directions.
Declan’s road in life will not always be surrounded by supportive staff, family and teachers. People that are aware of autism will not always be around him.
So, I guess that is why I write. To help spread the word about autism, so more people are surrounding those with autism with more understanding.