Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dr. Milanese, Part 3

Today we had our long-awaited "check-up" with Dr. Milanese, the developmental pediatrician who diagnosed Ethan when he was 22 months old. I say "long-awaited" because the appointment's been on the calendar for about eight months. If you're not proactive you can wait over a year to meet with this woman.

The crazy thing is, we almost didn't make it.

Okay, so the first time we saw Milanese, her office was in the main building at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. Fourteen months later, I vaguely recalled us going somewhere nearby for his reevaluation, but I didn't truly digest where, apparently. When I went to look up the address last night for Dr. Milanese, and read 282 Washington Street, that sounded good to me. Until we got there, and I realized 282 Washington Street was the main hospital, the place I thought she'd moved from.

What followed next was nothing short of a caper. I had valet parking watch my car while running into the hospital to ask where she was. No one could seem to find her in the computer. I was vaguely told a certain building across the street but couldn't figure out where to park. I kept frantically trying to use my cell phone only to find it was disabled "for emergency use only," whatever that meant. I nearly hit several cars while doing crazy u-turns and started losing my temper in a way that was downright embarrassing. Don't you just love when you tell your kids to keep it together and then they are there when you absolutely lose it? Finally we parked on the 6th floor of an incredibly busy parking garage and were sent by a guard in the lobby up to the eight floor. The suite we were told to go to was occupied by hand surgeons (of all things!) and two apologetic women meeting in someone's office told me no, Dr. Milanese wasn't there anymore, but they would call over to tell them we were coming. And then, after all that, we ended up back in the lobby of CCMC, the place where I had started and where they told me they couldn't find her in the computer, and headed up to the 5th floor. Apparently she has two offices. Or something.

Whew.

As for the appointment itself? Well, there was the good, the frustrating, and the blah. But there was more good than the other two, I suppose, so that's encouraging. Kind of.

The frustrating was Ethan rolling around on the floor and hiding under his chair, stuff he never does. He was a little bit "off" and I can't help but wonder if our half-hour trek around the various Hartford medical buildings had something to do with it. The kid just wanted to be done, but he wasn't horrible.

The good was that Milanese had an opportunity to see nearly everything I'd emailed her about Ethan's current situation in person. He answered her questions (albeit not really looking her in the eye), wrote his name, copied shapes and even drew part of a person. He played with trains for a little bit until he showed his ongoing affinity for smashing them.

The good was hearing the "expert" agree with and confirm everything I'd been thinking: that Ethan can learn but we need to raise the bar, that he might be in danger of being underestimated at school due to his easygoing personality, that he appears sometimes to lack attention span when really it's an imagination issue -- he runs out of ideas. Yes! Yes! Yes! I was inwardly shouting. She'd only watched him for 10 minutes and she knew. That's why this doctor in particular is one of the really good ones.

The good was listening to her on the phone with the director of the speech department, looking for ideas and about getting Ethan into a social skills group, and hearing her refer to Ethan as a kid with really, really, mild, mild autism. Yup, that's where we seem to reside on the spectrum right now, I was thinking, almost with a smile. Somewhere on this very thin stretch of land between autism and PDD-NOS and Asperger's.

The blah was her answer to my question that I knew there'd be no good answer to: how to simultaneously walk Ethan through peer interactions and play while also teaching him to take the initiative and to not just rely on others to facilitate everything.

"That's not so much of a 'how' question as it is a process," she answered. "If there was an answer, I'd give it to you, but I think it's a process."

Maybe that should encourage me. I've been trying to find an answers to truly difficult questions. I don't think she even addressed another one -- how to encourage creativity. Maybe because that's not really the question. I DO encourage creativity. It's just that it isn't "sticking." The light bulb hasn't gone off yet in some areas, but it's not because I'm not doing my part.

Overall, I was so grateful we'd made it in after our mad dash. Next up for Ethan is to start a social skills group and to work with the school to get more intentional about teaching social skills and facilitating interaction.

There are certainly no pat answers, no easy solutions and no quick fixes. But he's making progress. He's moved from moderate-severe autism to very mild autism. And so we keep chugging along...

1 comment:

Wendi said...

Wow, this sounds so encouraging. Ethan is blessed, and so are you. :)