J’s worst ‘playdate’ experience was probably also the best. I’m pretty sure he doesn’t remember what happened three years ago, but I do. It changed our perspective, our lives.
See, back before he had any official diagnosis, we would just chalk J’s screaming up to his speech delay. Sure, some days were worse than others, but we just couldn’t seem to get a handle on how to get J to stop screaming. Sign language didn’t work, time-outs didn’t work – nothing worked.
The day started off as a normal Friday- breakfast, phone call from a friend, and later hanging out with the kids and another momma (2nd M) at friend’s house (1st M). I can’t recall how long we were there for before he started screaming. An hour? Two? All I know is that it started…and 2nd M asked “why” we “allowed” him to do it. (Um…because we haven’t figured out a way to stop it?? Short of duct tape, that is). 2nd M asked if she could try a “Love & Logic” technique: screaming back at him. “Knock yourself out,” I said. (Seriously, did she think I hadn’t already tried that before?? He would scream for what seemed like hours sometimes). By now I was starting to get pretty defensive. Sure, these women were my friends, but you know how it is when you feel like someone’s attacking your child.
After 2nd M’s screaming attempts failed (it was apparent J was up for the challenge & could hold out longer), we were all at a loss for what to do. Then, the inevitable “autism” word popped up. Sure, I had researched it and by this time decided that surely that wasn’t what was causing my little boy to scream. He didn’t always avoid eye contact. He could say some words. He just…screamed…. a lot. Well, 1st M turned out to be a bandwagon jumper and, next thing I know, both of them are assuring me that my son has autism. Angry and hurt (and screaming), we left.
I cried for bit, hugged my kids and jumped back into autism research. After succumbing to the fact that autism was the reason for J’s screams, I called our local Child Find. Unfortunately, I never heard back from them. Instead, my son’s preschool teacher took me aside, said Child Find contacted her (she specialized in working with children with autism), and assured me that autism was not the answer. (No other suggestions or answers- just that I was at a dead end). This eventually led to us discovering the answer (Sensory Processing Disorder-which often coincides with an autism spectrum disorder) and seeking appropriate resources to help us.
So while that “discovery day” was awful and it seemed to be the end of our “playdate” experiences with 1st M, it helped push us in the right direction-seeking answers that fit the question. Even though it still seems to be the worst “playdate” any of my children have experienced so far, it was also the best, because it pushed us to find answers (and true friends… thanks 2nd M for sticking by us!).”