by Jennifer Dyer
This morning Rachel and I got off to a rough start. Traveling this past weekend and having Monday off from school meant our routine was shot, our lives out of order.
I couldn’t find her backpack. Though I cleaned out her water bottle, I left it sitting on the counter. I never even looked for her iPad, and it is the details that matter to Rach. But I knew none of this on the way to school. My mind was still focused on everything left undone at home. Plus, some of the scar tissue from my cancer surgery decided this was a good morning to light on fire. I could not think straight.
On the way to school, Rach kept trying to tell me something. Her language is getting better. She has the receptive language/understanding of a child about three years old, which is encouraging. Expressively, she struggles because her apraxia on top of the autism makes her communication garbled and unintelligible, even her sign language. But she is trying and that is HUGE!
She was making a sign from the backseat, though, that I couldn’t understand. I kept guessing. Both of us had pinched, flushed faces and tense muscles by the time we got to school. I steered Rachel toward her classroom while she gestured and made verbal approximations of “Buh” and “Shuh,” but those mean so many things!
My jumbled mind clawed through everything that might possibly be wrong or that she wanted. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t understand my own child? I’m a speech-language pathologist! If anything, I should be able to do this! But I can’t. I just. Keep. Failing.
When we entered the class, her teacher asked me what Rachel was trying to say.
I wanted to scream, to pull out my hair, to hide under my bed. I don’t know!
Rach looked at me and understanding dawned. Mommy failed, again, to get it. Her eyes teared up. She put her hands over them, pressing away her tears.
Autism is just. Plain. Mean.
I found her missing items and took them up to school, but I still don’t know what she was trying to tell me. And that, above all else, makes me press my hands against my own eyes to hold in the tears.