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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Look Me In The Eyes

Our younger son has holes in his ear drums.

His ears are just terrible, actually. After a couple infections as a baby, we opted quickly for tubes to help those ears drain. Yet, when they came out, they tore holes in his ear drums which did not heal on their own. A few attempts to place artificial screens over them had limited success, leaving him with hearing loss in his right ear.

This past week, I took him to the specialist to determine the extent of the hearing loss and to discern a path forward. Before we saw our usual doctor, in walked an intern, a fairly affable fellow, whom we had never before met.

He was knowledgeable. He was friendly. He had a nice exchange with our son. There was just one thing about him that struck me as out of the ordinary:

He wouldn't look me in the eyes. Not even a glance. Not even a smidgen of a look. I don't know where he was looking, but it wasn't at me.

Why wouldn't he look at me?

It was very distracting. I kept wondering if he would take a glance, making even an attempt at inter-personal relations. When it became apparant that this notion was not to be realized, I felt odd in my own skin.

Well, where do I look, then? I had to concentrate on looking into HIS eyes--his eyes that weren't looking into my eyes. And, for that matter, just out of curiosity, why was it that he wasn't looking into my eyes while we were discussing my child?

It was distracting.

I'm not saying he had autism. I'm not a one-trick pony. For that matter, who cares the reason WHY he did not or could not look me in the eyes. I think the more noteworthy issue is the fact that I was utterly distracted by it.

Me.

The mom of two kids with questionable skill in this area and a husband with a selective ability to do it himself.

I'm no sissy. Who cares if nobody looks at me? Well, apparantly, I CARE! lol.

Why was that?

What an ugly mirror. And, if this is how I reacted, I later considered how other people would respond to my children. Perhaps, because of their varying characteristics, my children would escape scorn in this area. So, how would children similar to them be received?

I realize that, in that doctor's office, it was as though I had been placed in someone else's typically developing shoes. For a brief moment I was given a glance from outside the life in which I currently live, looking in with a different perspective. If it was some divine test, oh my, I failed.

I have all of the facts in my head. I have so many statistics that I'm sure they have fried my brain. I am a compassionate person, to be sure. Yet I had to WORK to get past the simple fact that this doctor didn't make eye contact while we spoke.

This is my life. All the children around my have spotty eye contact at best. Was it the fact that this was my first exposure to a contemporary of mine who did now engage in this generally accepted rule of society? Perhaps.

This experience showed me that, while I have come such a long way in my life with special needs, I have a long way to go. As parents, we don't just appear with all the skills when our children are born. Those skills develop as our kids develop. Some of my fellow parents acquire skills with great speed. But, I guess we all have areas that need work.

For me, I have trouble envisioning the adult life of our kids. Life is so crazy and has been so crazy that I can't imagine it any other way. I don't see them past grade school. In my mind's eye, we are frozen there. Hopefully, that is no more. My hope is that this little experience shook the wheels into motion that this life is ongoing.

One day, their clothes will be the same size as mine--or larger. They will be adults. Now, I have the good fortune of preparing. But, I wonder about society as a whole, who will be faced with increasing numbers of adults living with autism as the years go by.

As educated as I thought I was, I'm ashamed to say that I obviously wasn't prepared for what I faced in my son's doctor's office that day. And, I wonder if I can expect better results from the general public when my kids are grown? I hope, but I'm not sure.

This is where we, as parents, push for education and change and hope for compassion.

1 comment:

  1. After 20 years of working with engineers, the diminished eye contact thing got to be no biggie. Who knew my occupation was preparing me for such a future? :)

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