Monday, November 19, 2012

A "Just in Case" Evaluation

Several times a day I just watch my son, lost in his own world of exploration and perception and think, "How could anyone ever think anything could be wrong with this precious and so obviously intelligent little boy?"

But someone does . . . or at least someone wants to have him checked out, "just in case."

It wasn't a command or an ultimatum, but the pediatrician expressed concern over Seth not having spoken any words yet at his 18-month check up.  My little monkey still makes lots of sounds and vocalizations, but no words. Physically?  He's just about perfect--you know, for being a 34 lb. tank of a toddler. Developmentally?  Well, he's not "perfect."  Or whatever in the hell that means.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to punch the whole pediatrician's office.

But what are they supposed to do?  Remain silent and run the risk of  losing the benefits of early intervention?  The risk of later being blamed for not seeing the need for it?  For not warning a parent?  For doing absolutely nothing when something could have been done?  What harm could an evaluation be?  A free evaluation.  Might as well use what the taxes are paying for, right?

What I worry about is that these people--these evaluators--are trained to find problems, not to see them, to FIND them . . . possibly whether they're there or not.  I don't mean they're shysters or anything like that, but it is so much easier it is to find something wrong when you're looking for something to be wrong.  You can bias information--twist it just enough in your head--to "reveal" what you're looking for.

But I still cannot bring myself to discount this recommendation. What could an evaluation hurt?  Maybe there is something we could be doing? Maybe there is something we need to stop doing? Maybe, maybe, maybe.

I keep reading reassurances about different rates of child-development and how "they all even out in the end" (cases of severe disability aside), yet here I am with an appointment two days before Thanksgiving to have my seemingly bright, happy, curious, nosy, stubborn, independent, goofy, and undeniably intelligent son "evaluated."

This harmless, precautionary evaluation is wreaking havoc on my parental self-esteem: I worry that I've not done enough, that I've done too much (and/or done it wrong), that I've not been worried enough.  The constant battle between my instinct that he is absolutely fine and my own lack of degrees and experience-rich knowledge in pediatric medicine, psychology, and (heck, why not?) dentistry is driving me nuts.

Sometimes I am so sure about my child. I know him better than anyone (save his father), and I know exactly why he's not talking yet: He hasn't had (what he considers) proper motivation--he hasn't seen how it will benefit him; he's always been that way.  If you try to show him how to do something or "help" him, you are met with a wall of iron-will connected to stern and almost outraged expression that pretty much screams, "I will do this MY WAY when I WANT TO."  Any attempted assistance is futile and will be met with severe resistance. And while I'm sure he could always benefit from some developmentally specific activities, he doesn't need them.

Other times, I try to view him and his behaviors more objectively--I try to turn my "gut" off.  He's obsessed with opening and closing things. He doesn't really show that much interest in people other than mommy and daddy. He seems to get uber-focused on what he's doing a lot of the times and will ignore just about everything going on around him (though I'm pretty guilty of that myself).  He doesn't show an interest in being read to, but will bring me a book so I can hold it while he flips the pages--but he doesn't seem to be interested in the pictures at all, just the flipping.  He still puts EVERYTHING into his mouth, teething or not.  Whenever we come in from a walk, he has to lick the doorframe; it's his ritual. The list could go on, and now I wonder if I've just been passing all these things off as "normal" childhood weirdness--missing signs I didn't even know to look for.

So tomorrow afternoon I'll pack up my son, a few toys, and what's currently left of my parental confidence, and we'll head off to be evaluated.  And I do mean "we," because let's face it, any evaluation of your kid (especially at this age) is an evaluation of you too.


  1. Hey sweetie, I just got sort of caught up with checking on blogs and saw this. Hang in there no matter how the evaluation went. If you need to talk, I'm around.

  2. I barely uttered a sound until I was past two. Then I started using complete sentences. My mother's theory: I hated to do anything until I could do it well.

    My just-turned-two-years-old nephew also got to about 18 months with hardly any talking. Then doctors addresses some sort of ear issue, and he started babbling away like nobody's business.

    I know those are just two more examples and you've likely seen thousands. Also I lack some credibility here because I am not yet a parent. However, I say stick to your assertion that you know Seth best. What you said about motivation makes a lot of sense: he sounds smart and stubborn!