Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Tale of Two Doctors

Last Thursday, Matt and I went to visit a doctor's office and do a lunch and learn. The experience was powerful as the first doctor we talked to was almost in tears because of the ever increasing number of cases she sees and yet she didn't really know where to send them.

This morning I gave a presentation and I heard from a grandfather who has a grandson who is two-and-a-half years old. He asked a question regarding if there is therapy and if early intervention is important.

Last Thursday the doctors in that office knew all about the M-CHAT (The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers) and wanted to know every possible thing Matt and I could tell them. There truly was a hunger for knowledge and while these doctors knew more than most, they still knew that they didn't know it all.

This grandfather today said that the child's doctor says it can't be anything autism because it is simply too early to diagnosis and also he has said "Let's wait, he'll probably grow out of it."

"We know how to diagnosis it. We know what it looks like. What can we tell the parents?" are the lines we heard last Thursday. Those doctors didn't want to scare the parents, and they were more than happy that they know how TouchPoint's Parent's Guide to Autism so they could give a realistic and hopeful message.

Frustration; it is the only word to describe how this grandfather felt. As a result of his grandson's doctor's words, the mother of the child is in denial. The grandfather told me that his 11 month old grandson has better social skills than the two year old. "I've known something was there, but have gotten no where."

Of these two examples I hope it is obvious which is the right approach. It was so refreshing and gave me so much hope having the two hour meeting that we had last Thursday. I wish beyond anything that all doctors were that way. As I said above, they were highly knowledgeable, but they wanted more. They wanted more! What a contrast to the other doctor who doesn't give an M-CHAT and gives false hope by denying that it could in any way be anything associated with the autism spectrum.

Denial is a dangerous thing. Doctors like the grandson's in this example can lead to long-term denial. Here's the thing: whether or not one is in denial the child is still the child. If one decides to heed the warnings and it isn't autism, well, the therapies and parenting methods learned will still prove to be beneficial. And, if it is autism, the family is down the road to understanding much sooner than waiting.

Stories like I heard this morning keep me going. I used to say that I was passionate about this, but now it is more. It is a part of me. To hear the frustration of this grandfather and to, while he is talking to me, remember the doctors that we spoke to last week, well, all I can say is that the words "angry," "frustration," and "disappointment" are simply not strong enough. 


  1. Thank you so much for all you do, Aaron. You are appreciated.

  2. A lot of times parents see the signs earlier than the doctors do. But you also have to consider this, the doctor or whatever professional only sees the child in a much less % of the time than the parent/other caregivers do. Another thing is that, the doctor's office represents another environment, as you know. So, how the child react might be different. Also, think of what they are trying to determine like an umpire trying to make a call at a baseball game (balls and strikes or safe or out), they have to do it real time. They are not going to be right all the time. In this instance, that is where the autism advocate in me would immediately tell the parents to seek a second opinion if applicable.

    Anyway, early diagnosis is definitely good and you need to emphasize that. Thing is, if there is this "delay in diagnosis", then what can parents and individuals with autism can do about it?

  3. I only by chance, found out what the signs were. By then my daughter was about 8 and had grown out of the EARLY signs. Like choking as a baby for instance. Though if she coughs even now at 17 she says, "I'm okay!" afterwards. But now it means I can see the signs which I point out to my other daughter who is in the process of having her kids checked out. Yes I think it's hereditary...and it may or may not have come from me..