Friday, June 29, 2012

Welcome to the Bat Cave

I am sitting in a room that I have only seen in movies and police shows. There is a large two-way mirror so that I can observe what is going on in the other room.

It is a 12x5 space (that I will generously call a "room") and is packed with chairs and rubbermaid bins. I have to sit in the dark and listen via a tiny speaker.

There is a piece of printer paper taped to the wall that reads, "Welcome to the Bat Cave" above the Batman symbol. I am neither encouraged nor amused.

I am watching Jacob go through another battery of tests to confirm his autism diagnosis. This time we are dealing with the medical specialists at UF's Center for Autism Research and Development (CARD).  
He is there for an I.Q. test and an ADOS (Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule). 


Something inside one of the rubbermaid bins has just "mooed" at me. (Okay, that was funny.)

During the I.Q. test, he is asked to identify objects, follow increasingly complex instructions using manipulatives (i.e. "Give me the horse... Give me the house before you give me the tree."), and match cards with 4 choices. The instructions are minimal and even I had a difficult time figuring out what they were asking him to do when presented with the matching section.

As he took the test, I found myself mentally yelling the correct answers at my little boy from behind the glass, as if I could raise his I.Q. score by the sheer force of my will.

Flashback: I am standing over a bassinet watching my 4 day-old son sleep. I should be sleeping, too, but I cannot stop watching him. I am terrified that he will just stop breathing without my continued presence willing it to continue.

Maybe this is why the Bat Cave sign bothers me. I have no super powers in this room. I stop listening to his answers as the questions get harder.

Then we are moved to another room for the ADOS. I have been through one of these before, so I know what to expect. There is a therapist in the room that sits in the corner taking notes while another plays with Jacob in a scripted fashion. As I walk him to the new room, he grabs my hand and says, "Don't leave me."

I leave him.

I pick up the pieces of my heart and get settled into another observation room. It doesn't start off well and I immediately start to see what they see. A sweet, slightly stiff little boy. Just enough avoidance of eye contact to raise concern. A reluctance to answer questions that are not repeated or rephrased so that he can understand them.

And then something wonderful happens. My Jacob shows up.

He is delighted to find a remote controlled bunny under a cloth, which he figures out how to work by himself. He tells the therapists, without prompting, that bunnies are his favorite animals because they are so soft.

He shows off his new, light up Buzz Lightyear shoes.

He throws a birthday party for a family of dolls, complete with a play dough birthday cake. When told to "feed the baby the cake" and is handed some kind of odd object to use as a spoon, he replies, "Wait. I've got a better idea." He scouts out the room and the toys and actually finds something that looks more like a spoon.

He remembers the details of an activity better than the therapist does...twice.

He is cooperative, interested, imaginative, and enjoying himself in an unfamiliar place without his mommy, even after hours of testing.

I decided to keep Emily and Jacob in school through June so that I could have a little break to get things done around the house. Today is his last day at the school he has gone to since he was barely two years old. I'm pretty sure I will cry harder today when I pick him up than I did at his graduation. His teachers have instilled in him a love for Jesus that I didn't really think was possible in such a young child. He has learned so much and I am so grateful that First Baptist Jr. Academy was part of God's plan for his life.

So, I guess what I've learned today (and over the past 5 years) is that I can't be everywhere. I won't always be there to help Jacob through all of his obstacles in life. There will be times where he says, "Don't leave me" and I will have to leave because letting him fend for himself is the right thing to do. But God is there, and helping Jacob understand that he can call on his God for strength is what will give me peace when I have to let go. (Someone please remind me of this in August when I send him to Kindergarten.)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. Psalm 46:1-3,7

 "Fire Chief Jacob" on his final share day at school.
He had to come dressed as what he wants to be when he grows up.

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