Doctors have their own language that the use to communicate with each other. Most of the language refers to anatomical stuff and directions as they relate to the body: Medial, lateral, distal, proximal… the list goes on. However, they also have a very different way of communicating their thoughts and their discussions with patients. If you’re in the medical community, you know this and it makes sense.
Yesterday I took my little three-and-a-half year old son A. to see a pediatrician for his “behaviour.” We’ve had some concerns over how he’s been developing, particularly as it pertains to his behaviour, but a few other things as well: He likes repetitive games, he likes to watch the tires spin on his cars, he doesn’t really “pretend,” he has always been a little behind other kids in gross and find motor skills, he gets easily frustrated, he doesn’t try to do things for himself even though he knows how, he is very fearful of many things, especially if they are loud (like the furnace room or a vacuum), he covers his ears a lot, he makes weird sounds, he shoves his face in other people’s faces… I spent an hour telling the pediatrician about everything I could think of that was concerning to husband and I since A was born. She agreed with me; something isn’t quite “normal.” It could just be the way he is wired, and I’m okay with that. But just to be safe, she’s sending a referral for us to see the early childhood development centre. I know what this mean, and I know what her referral letter will say: To shorten it one two words – “Query Spectrum.”
Even Shorter: ?Spectrum
A. doesn’t have autism. I know that. He communicates quite advanced for his age. He is one of the most social little creatures I know. He is empathetic, he shows affection, he asks questions… I’m not overly worried. But I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little surprised that the pediatrician felt the need to have him assessed. I think I was hoping for more of a “don’t worry, you;re too concerned, he’s just a normal little buy” speech from a pediatrician. Clearly, that’s not what I got.
In the end, I know it will be okay. If there is something “of” about the way A learns, or interacts, or processes, then that’s okay. It’s better to know now and get him the resources he might need then to watch him struggle and fall through the cracks as he gets older. Either way, it is still a bit of a shock.
And, no matter how much you know of the special language that doctors use, it is always unsettling to think of someone, somewhere writing “query spectrum” about your own child.