Dear Pediatric Specialist at the Children’s Hospital center we visited today,
I didn’t get a chance to tell you how I really felt about your actions and words during our visit, so I’m taking the opportunity to write this blog post that you will never read. You see, you exemplified an attitude that has increasingly bothered me ever since I had kids.
I saw your eyes widen when you saw all three of my kids. I saw your disapproving body language as my oldest son excitedly walked ahead of you to the door. I heard you admonish him to come back, and the disapproving tone in your voice.
I saw your frustration as you directed me to “leave it outside” because your office was too small to hold our stroller, and I noticed your attitude of annoyance: we were disrupting your day simply by existing.
But I didn’t really get annoyed with you until you threw up your hands in frustration, turned to me, and announced that “this wasn’t going to work.” That you couldn’t do your job because I had brought all of the kids. When you reprimanded me for bringing my kids with me, I couldn’t believe someone would be so rude. And when you gave me a contact number and admonished me to go visit this next professional without kids so that I could pay attention, you overstepped your authority.
Please remember that my children were being quiet – they colored quietly and behaved amazingly for their limitations and ages. But even with that, you were irritated when my 2-year-old wanted me to hold him on my lap. You were annoyed when your patient, my oldest son, played a math game on my phone. Nothing my kids did made you happy except leaving.
In fact, you would have been completely happy if my children had been wheeled into your office looking like this image: gagged and tied down.
You, madam, are a prime example of how illogical our society has become.
Our society idealizes childhood. We romanticized the innocence, the freedom, and the naivety. We start whole slews of movements and educational change “for the children’s sake,” yet we really don’t want to deal with the children themselves. We want kids to sit down, shut up, and leave us alone.
We don’t want to be bothered.
Kids are naturally curious. They are messy, noisy, and ill-mannered by adult standards. Small children are even more: they have no metric for measuring “irritating” and they don’t put anyone’s needs before their own. It’s our job to teach them that. To teach them manners. And like anything else, it takes time to learn lessons this complex.
I’m not advocating for a permissive behavior towards wild, undisciplined hooligans. I’ve dealt with my fair share of undisciplined, annoying kids who are allowed to roam freely and bother whomever they may. No, I’m talking about tolerating children in general.
You obviously don’t have small children or grandchildren, or you would realize how unrealistic your expectations were. Small children are incapable of sitting in absolute silence. They can play quietly, but not noise-free.
I find it quite ironic that your attitude towards my kids was so unyielding when you specialize in dealing with problem children. Kids with ADHD, with learning disabilities, kids who need help pinpointing educational disabilities so that they can succeed in school. Do you expect every child to enter your office and sit in absolute silence? You chose to enter the pediatric field, you need to have a little more patience with the vagaries of childhood.
On another note, I’m rather annoyed that you asked how I could possibly gauge my son’s intelligence level because he can’t read. Honestly, how narrow-minded can you be? I don’t think that you appreciated my ironic comment that you don’t need to read and write to build models of molecules or intricate 3-D shapes like the icosahedron and rhombicuboctohedron he’s working on.
My husband asked why I didn’t tell you how I really felt and simply leave. I couldn’t: you were the gatekeeper. If you irritate the gatekeeper, you never get past the gate. My son needs help, he needs a proper diagnosis. My efforts at politeness didn’t matter: you decided long before I opened my mouth that you didn’t want to deal with us. In fact, you point-blank refused to test him because “we need to get the behavioral issues under control first.”
Ironically, I made allowances for your behavior. You know why? I recognized something in you.
I don’t know if it was the look in your eyes, the way you held your hands, or the way your body tensed up. I could tell that my children were triggering you. I don’t know if you were autistic or simply dealing with sensory issues, but I knew you weren’t just being rude. You see, I live with this every day. I see my children struggle, and I wonder and worry about what life will be for them when they’re adults. Will they be able to cope? Or like you, will they be on the verge of a meltdown because a 2-year-old walked into their office?
Don’t worry, we won’t visit you again. Clearly you aren’t a good fit for our medical needs, and I will re-start the endless search for someone else who will listen to me.
Still, I hope that you can learn something from our visit. A little empathy, perhaps? I have small hope of that – but I do hope that the medical student who was shadowing you today got a good look at what not to do. She’s the future of your profession, and her empathy and willingness to help keep the kids calm gives me hope.
And you know what? I took my kids out somewhere fun afterwards to reward them for behaving so well. Because I’m proud of them – you have no idea just how badly this appointment could have gone. They did a great job!
Note: no small children were harmed in the making of this image. In fact, they volunteered, and each wanted to take a turn getting a picture. They thought it was hilarious!
A reader pointed out that there are always two sides to the story – what if I was being an unrealistic parent?
D.S. “Before I would judge this specialist, I’d want to know one thing: was this mom instructed to leave other children home so that her child with attention deficits (as implied by the blog) could focus and the specialist could begin to construct a valid diagnosis? Maybe this important appointment–for a child who has a harder time focusing anyway–would have been the appropriate time for a relative or friend to take off work so mom could bring in the one child, undistracted. A behavioral/diagnostic appointment is not the time for the whole crew. She’s right, it sounds like her children were just being children, but she asks too much if she wants a specialist to focus in on one child, get a valid diagnosis (with that child staying on task), and bring in all the distractions of his siblings. She has to ask herself what she is trying to accomplish in that earnestly-sought-after appointment rather than try to prove a point about how un-child-friendly some people are. A time and place for everything . . .”
“Great questions! No, I was not instructed to bring my son alone. I even told the scheduler that I was bringing my kids and asked if that was a problem. Her answer – this wasn’t a diagnostic appointment, but a preliminary appointment to decide what testing to do.
At the appointment, the specialist never once talked to my son. She only addressed herself to me, specifically asking what what other medical professionals had diagnosed/evaluated. She was not interested in my feedback either. I repeat – she ignored him.
I had been asked to complete a few forms (the BRIEF and a behavioral form) that she refused to accept because he wasn’t 6 yet – his birthday is less than 2 months away. A lot of pertinent information ignored because of an arbitrary date.
I should note: my son sees another specialist at this same location and that specialist has no issues with my kids. Despite being referred by her colleague who felt this testing would be helpful, she dismissed us.
Hope that helps clear up the issue!”
I really did not care for the “I don’t know if your autistic or dealing with sensory issues” comment. As awareness of autism increases it is ironic that it is now a socially acceptable insult– to hurl the autistic label at people that don’t fit our personal version of whatever normal or acceptable is. Your attitude is no better than the provider you dealt with. You are every bit as judgemental and discriminatory. I agree that people have become unreasonable of what they expect of mothers and children, but the well spoken words on a nice blog site don’t hide the ugliness of your comments.
And yes, if your child is autistic, they will always struggle with society’s expectations– every-single-day. They will struggle with how bright a room is, with how loud a room is, with how warm a room is, with unexpected things like a mom showing up with three kids and not being able to function or do their job. As adults people with autism are much more likely suffer from anxiety, depression, unemployment/underemployment, marital problems, poor mental health care and regular health care (because providers aren’t trained with how to deal with people on the spectrum), problems with law enforcement (because the lack of eye contact is seen as disrespect). People with autism like routine and rules. They like to follow a standard process. Autistic people often love the sciences because there are protocols and procedures to follow, for example, working on behavior issues first and then assessing afterwards. Autistic people have an exceptionally high suicide rate. Many care deeply about people and are aware that they let people down–they hate themselves for it. They lack theory of mind, in other words, it is hard for them to understand an experience outside of their own unless it is explained to them explicitly. And just because you explain it once doesn’t mean they will be able to make the connection and apply it to other situations. For example, it is often necessary for mothers to bring along other siblings to doctors appointments. That bit of information might come as a shock for years before an autistic person is able to move that bit of information into “got it” column.
If you suspect your child is on the spectrum, maybe it is time to join an advocacy group that teaches inclusion and tolerance of autistic persons, because your child will someday be the autistic adult just trying to fit in, hoping people will understand, trying not upset people, and loathing themselves whenever they do.
I think you misunderstood my meaning. Labeling this doctor as possibly autist or with sensory issues wasn’t an insult – in fact, it made me more tolerant and understanding. My first instinct was to be confrontation and stand up for my kids – knowing that the doctor was being triggered made me back down. Please understand that this doctor was an established expert in her field, and she was nearing retirement age. It wasn’t unreasonable (or judgemental and discriminatory) for me to expect her to do her job.
I realize you probably haven’t explored this blog much, so let me emphasize that two of my children have SPD – sensory processing disorder. One of them is labeled with PDD-NOS. My comments aren’t out of ignorance or to be mean. I know what it’s like to struggle with sensory issues, and I help my kids learn to cope every single day. Note that my goals are to help my children learn to live in a world not made for them – not to force the world to conform to their needs.
The fact is – whatever issues this doctor had caused her to dismiss her patient and ignore his needs. That’s not the kind of help my kid needs, and it’s not what we paid for and waited months for. That isn’t just “letting people down,” as you put it – that’s a violation of every oath this doctor took.
I am so proud of you for standing up for your child and for searching for support. I’ve learned to let my child live and not expect her to be sitting quietly like an adult, because she’s not. I have an extraordinary memory. I recall being an extremely active, chatty, and loud 2.5 year old. Looking back through the eyes of an adult I would have been considered a “challenging” child. But I wasn’t; I was just healthy and bright.
Thank you! It’s so hard to stand up against social norms sometimes – especially when people think my kids are misbehaving.