I went to a wedding shower this weekend over in Illinois, my inlaws, kind of deep in the list, like I think the bride is my husband's second cousin. This doesn't happen in my family. I'm not sure I could pick all my first cousins out of a crowd.
One of the people in attendance was a first cousin that I have known since she was very small, like three or four years old. She is now an adult, married with a one year old baby boy. I had heard from my mother in law and a couple of other folks that she was nervous about him. She's a teacher as well, special education, and she was worried that something wasn't right with him. Everyone keeps assuring her that all is well.
I watched her before the shower started, playing with him on the floor, having people help with feeding him at a table, holding him, passing him to her mom, to my mother-in-law. It all did seem fine to me. It didn't seem like anything was amiss. I knew why everyone was reassuring her.
But I've been there.
Niles was not an early talker. That doesn't really cover it. He wasn't an early communicator. And I worried while everyone told me he was fine.
So after lunch but before the bride to be opened gifts, I sat down next to her at her table.
"So I thought Niles had autism," I opened the conversation. She laughed a little nervous laugh. But I pushed on. I told her his symptoms. I told her how he would say a word one time and then never again. How he'd had some language and lost it. How he never imitated. Didn't make eye contact. I had two older children and never thought that about them. Something was wrong with Niles. Something was wrong.
"People told me not to worry about it, that boys were different from girls. But it wasn't right and I felt it."
She nodded at me. I could tell she was about to cry.
"So I took him to a speech and language pathologist. I'd done it with Brooklyn, I knew the drill. And the professor came out and said to me, all serious, we are so glad you brought him to us. Because something was wrong. But it wasn't what I thought. It was apraxia, and that was big and scary too, but we were able to work on it."
She started to spill out her worries, the things she was noticing, comparing them to students she had taught.
"Yes," I agreed. "There is something in your heart that says it's not right. I totally get it. And you won't feel ok until it's obvious that everything is better. I didn't feel ok until that professor said the word apraxia and I could look it up and see that it was absolutely what he had. It took until he was two and a half to finally relax. I get it."
We talked a little more.
I have no idea if it helped or not. But I remember. I remember all the "it's fine" comments. They didn't help. What helped was finding the answers. And that's what she needs to do. In the end, I'll put money on nothing is wrong. But I'm not his mama. And she needs to find out.