Yesterday was our developmental psychologist appointment. It was awful. It was awful in ways I couldn't even imagine. Wow.
The night before, Josh took a Benadryl and an Excedrin migraine to ward off allergy problems that were starting to give him a headache (he suffers from migraines). This combination gave him a buzz and the munchies, so being the wonderful wife I am, I stayed up with him and watched TV until he got sleepy around 2am.
I had to wake up at 6:30am to get to the appointment on time, so I was quite sleepy. Lack of sleep is my kryptonite, so I was already losing the battle upon waking. KayTar had to wake up at 7:15, and she normally wakes up between 9:30 and 10am, so she wasn't quite herself either. We were out of milk here, so I took an empty bottle with me, planning on buying milk from the hospital cafeteria to fill her bottle when we arrived. Well, the traffic was AWFUL. It was miserably foggy, and it was also Monday morning rush hour. We were supposed to arrive between 8 and 8:15, but we arrived at 8:37, so there was no time to grab milk in the cafeteria. We got in the evaluation room and KayTar was instantly cranky. She was crying and whining for no reason. She is so easy going and she never fusses, unless it is bedtime or she needs to be alone in her crib for a while. This was HARDCORE fussing. When she was an infant, we couldn't go anywhere with her, because she would cry the entire time; I had forgotten about that until yesterday and she was suddenly that infant again. Even her blankey, which is her "defense mechanism" couldn't help. She refused to do things she normally enjoys. The only times she was quiet was when she was working a puzzle, stacking the blocks (which wasn't what she was supposed to be doing with them), and when she crawled away from us, into the corner, turned her back to us and talked to herself. When she came back, she was instantly fussy again.
She does so well for her ECI evaluations, she always exceeds what I think she is capable of, but those are done here at her home in her territory. They are relaxed and kind. The therapists make an effort to get to know her before asking anything of her. This was not that sort of experience. When we arrived in the room, the psychologist immediately started pulling out toys and "drilling" her. First she handed her a pretty bracelet, then took it away (making KayTar cry) and hid it under a washcloth. Of course, KayTar found it, but as soon as she did, the psychologist took it away from her again. Then, a ring on a strong was dangled in front of her to see if she would grab it and "reel it in". Then it was immediately put away. Then she was given blocks, asked to put them in a cup. KayTar made an impressive stack of ten 1-inch cubed without toppling it, but she refused to put them in a cup. Then she was handed cups, spoons, and a baby doll. She stacked the cups and put the spoons inside the cups. She held the baby for a moment before unstacking/restacking the cups. Then they were taken away. She did a puzzle, it was immediately put away. The psychologist attempted to read a story to KayTar. KayTar was enraged that she could not turn the pages at her leisure. Right after this, she pulled out another book and asked KayTar to point to the dog. KayTar was enraged that 1. the other book was gone, and 2. she was not allowed to flip through this book on her own BEFORE being asked to identify things. She loves to point to pictures in her books, but she wouldn't do it yesterday. She just cried and cried. It went on and on like this. The toys were brought out, commands were given, they were or were not followed, and the toys were put away. Every time the blocks emerged, she calmed down and stacked them; but those were never the instructions. The first block round, she was supposed to put them in a cup; the second round she was supposed to copy the psychologist and build a "choo-choo" with them; the final time she was supposed to put them into a box. She stacked them. She was upset every time they were taken away. She exceled at the puzzles, as always. She was upset every time they were taken away. She wouldn't play ball with me in the hallway, although she was happy to be out of the exam room. She put the pennies in the bank like a champ, she LOVES this and does it frequently with her Aunt. She was upset that once she filled the bank, the psychologist wouldn't pour them out again.
While I was there, I wondered "Why is she being so awful? Is she really this sleepy?" and the psychologist kept asking "Is she always this fussy?" But in retrospect, this was exactly the kind of environment that upsets her. She loves to be in control. She loves to take her time, and do things over and over. Her therapy sessions go so well, because she is allowed to spend as much or as little time on a skill, and she can switch from one task to another as she wishes. She dislikes new people, unless the attempt to connect and let her forge the connections. She is social and loving, as long as you let her "make the first move". She didn't know this lady. She only knew that she gave her toys, made demands, and took the toys away. That isn't the sort of behavior that fosters trust and cooperation. So in retrospect, I think maybe she was more herself than I orginally thought, because it is possible that the environment brought out the "worst" in her so to speak. It was not an agreeable arrangement for her temperment.
After this wonderful session, I had to sit in the room with KayTar while I filled out a 6 page questionnaire about her. She fussed and refused to play. I finally put her in her stroller next to me with a biter biscuit and bought myself a bit of quiet. She started saying "Ga!" over and over, which is how she says "pig". She LOVES the word pig and it gives her the giggles every time. So while filling out the questionnaire, so had to turn every 30 seconds and exclaim "PIG!" much to her delight. PIG! Is what got us through. The psychologist did make a positive comment about this, "I see she is using language to get your attention, very good." I was very distracted, so I hope I answered the questionnaire accurately.
Josh and I are worried that based on her behavior yesterday, the psychologist is likely to come back and say autism, when we STRONGLY disagree. I have researched my little rear end off, and autism has never been a fit for her. Even if she shares sone tendencies, her overall behavior says otherwise. She is loving and friendly and quick to make friends, as long as people respect her boundaries and allow her to initiate contact. She is comfortable enough with her therapist that by the end of the first session, she usually ends up in their laps cuddling. There are other reasons we feel it isn't a fit, but the social aspect is a large one. Autism is not a bad thing, definitely not the worst we've been faced with throughout this ordeal, but we do not want her wrongly labeled because of a bad day. We are afraid the psychologist might latch on to the obvious tendencies and not go any deeper.
Also, if your child has been through one of these developmental psychological work-ups, please let me know if you had a similar experience....or if your experience was different than ours. I wonder if they are structured this way to bring out the "worst" in a child? I'm very confused about the whole thing. Are they meant to be frustrating? We were there from 8:40-11:15, which is a long time for a small tot, especially at that pace. I'd appreciate insight on this one, I find I'm a bit lacking because it is a first for us. She has always been a shiny, wonderful version of herself at her evaluations, always exceeding expectations I had. This time was just so strikingly different, I'm not sure what to make of it all.