Living Outside the Box
As we drove to the “mental exam” SSI requires to qualify Reid for funding (now that he’s over 18), I prayed:
Lord, guard my heart. Whatever happens, I want to see Reid through your eyes. Whatever they say or determine, doesn’t change your plans for him. Guard my heart and his from the world’s misperception and lies.
I have learned from experience that these appointments, however routine, can leave me in despair. Not this time, I declared in Jesus name.
We walked into the generic medical office chosen to provide an outside opinion of Reid’s capacity, despite the paperwork and access to records I had already approved. It was one block from the Social Security office, in a neighborhood we don’t frequent. Nicer than DMV, yet reminiscent in a way.
Hellooo! Reid welcomed himself at the reception area appointed with framed prints of American veterans erecting flags.
Candy?! Miss, may I have one of those–from that bowl? There were two candy bowls. He gestured to the bigger one by “the lady on the computer.”
We checked in. I answered inane questions, as if I were Reid, on a form and clipboard:
Who drove you here?
Have you ever hurt your self?
Do you see things others don’t see?
What disables you from working?
Have you received treatment for this?
The million dollar question on my mind was: Who writes these questionnaires? The process itself lacks dignity and reeks of ignorance and disregard. I wanted to rephrase every single one.
A woman called, “Rade” to which we answered. She took Reid’s weight, height and photo, then we returned to watch another scene from The Nutty Professor.
An underemployed female doctor lacking affect called us the second time. A very standard cognitive assessment ensued.
I’m ready for the interview! Reid said taking the hot seat in front of her laminate desk. The blinds were closed. I sat on the side as directed.
Are you his mom?
Yes. So far this was easy.
When was he diagnosed with autism?
What behavioral issues does he have?
All those associated with the spectrum. Keep it simple.
Didn’t he have any intervention, ABA therapy? Maybe I was supposed to have listed those.
Oh yes. We did all that; it was just 15 years ago. He had a full-on home program, ABA, PRT, Floortime, the works.
Reid watched me, obviously wondering when it would be his turn. Seems like the interview is for me, doesn’t it? It’ll be your turn in a minute.
When it was, she asked his name. Check. Address? Check. Birthday?
June 4, isn’t that right mom? I nodded.
19…. I helped when he got stuck.
That’s okay. She made notes.
How many days in a week?
How many months in a year?
Well, let’s see… He raised his fingers one at a time, in no particular rush.
January is 1, February is 2, March is 3….. He restarted around May…which is 5…then finished strong.
November is 11…December is 12. Twelve months!
Wishing she got paid by the hour, she smirked and moved onto another section.
What would you do if there was a fire in the building?
Get low and go! Reid said without hesitation in all seriousness, recalling two loud fire drills at school in the past month.
Our little-while doctor nearly chortled at the creative, appropo, and succinct response. She modeled a connect the dot numerical sequence. Reid completed his longer one in good time and handed her the paper.
It doesn’t make anything, he pointed out as if to say, what was the point of that?
No, there’s no picture, it took her a minute.
More than once, he took the easy road handing things back to her saying, it’s too hard. He seemed to have some opposite of test anxiety–maybe a new condition we could call “test familiarity.” He mimicked her prompts in anticipation like they were the lyrics on our Top 40 radio station.
She handed him the WAIS-IV blocks he’s seen a million times. He literally said, let me get comfortable here and pulled his legs up under him criss-cross applesauce in the vinyl barrel chair.
She flipped forward in the spiral for harder material, then back when Reid was stumped. Recognizing the drill, he called her out to save time, I need an easier one.
Can he read? She addressed me now.
Yes. She handed him a list of single words in a grid.
Reid played to her expectations, beginning at a labored speed.
When he got to “qua–ran-tine” at the bottom of the page I couldn’t help but think again about getting him a cameo acting spot on Sesame Street. He shines at dramatic decoding, with or without Elmo.
Okay, I’m going to ask you to write some words now.
Oh, like a spelling test!
She was more than cracking a smile now. Reid brings joy to the most deadpan of faces.
We’re all done then. I will submit my report. There should be no problem at all recommending him since he could not complete a 9-5 job 5 days a week.
Well, thank you for your time. What else could I say?
I put my manila folders and sweater in the back seat. Mom, let’s go!
Yup, that was kinda boring but, at least you got to miss school. Let’s go!
Neither this man nor his parents sinned, said Jesus, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. John 9:3