9 months ago



Heather 19 life. The

Heather 19 life. The mother leads her daughter into the school and sends her off in the direction of her classroom. Once again, Heather is out of her mother’s protective gaze. * * * Some two years later, I went to the school for the annual review of Heather’s placement and to make plans for the next year. As I drove into the parking lot and saw the children playing, I was reminded of the story her mother, Janice, had told me the day she found her in the yard after recess all alone. I was curious to see what Heather would be doing today. Perhaps I too could catch a glimpse of her before the meeting. I parked my car and wandered over to the schoolyard to see the children. I noticed the oak tree, but there was no little girl going round and round. I scanned the field to see if I could find her. She should not be too difficult to spot; after all, she would be the one carrying the bathing suit across her arm. She had about five bathing suits that she carried with her everywhere, but the one with the fruit pattern was her favorite. She hated water and refused to go swimming, but she would hang on to those bathing suits for dear life! I looked for a little girl standing all alone off by herself. There were groups of children on the swings, in the tire, going down the slide, but no Heather. Then I saw her. She was with a group of girls all huddled together, looking at something in Heather’s hands. She seemed to be showing them something precious. Perhaps it was some Pokemon figurines that Heather collected. She carried them to school every day in her backpack, and perhaps now she was showing off the newest addition to her collection. Her friends were clearly very impressed, and I imagined that appreciative sounds were made about this character’s color or that figure’s shape. Heather was clearly proud to be the center of attention and eager to show off to her classmates. The bell rang, and she joined her friends as they lined up to go inside. There was some pushing and shoving in the line, but Heather patiently waited her turn, holding fast to her bathing suit as she filed into the school and out of my view. She had not noticed me, which was just as well. I smiled to myself and went to the school conference. I was happy to learn at the meeting that what I had seen in the playground was generally true. Heather was truly part of the school community, bathing suit and all. * * *

Free ebooks ==> 20 A MIND APART I first met Heather when she was four years old and had come for a diagnostic assessment. When she marched into the office with her bathing suit firmly clutched in her hands, I asked whether she had just come from the pool. Without pausing to answer, she rummaged around the toy box and started to line up some tiny figurines, not an easy task with one hand wrapped around a bathing suit. I turned to her mother, and we got down to the work of finding out what her concerns were and what might be done about them. I spent the next couple of sessions getting a history from Janice and playing with Heather, all as a way of collecting the information I needed to complete the assessment. Separated from the children’s father when they were very young, Janice was raising Heather and her older brother alone while working as a waitress at a local restaurant. Janice first became concerned about Heather at around six months of age, when she noticed that her baby did not seem to cry very much and was content to lie in the crib for hours without being picked up. Compared to her brother, who had been quite colicky as a baby, Heather seemed to be too placid and quiet. Janice took Heather to the doctor when she turned one, because she was not yet communicating her wants and needs, but he shrugged off Janice’s concerns. When Heather’s speech did not improve, Janice persisted in telling the doctor that something was wrong, and eventually she was referred to a pediatrician who decided that Heather had a speech delay. That led to a referral for speech therapy at our hospital. There, the speech therapist confirmed Janice’s suspicions that more than speech was wrong with Heather and that this extreme placidity was a bit unusual, as were a number of other behaviors. The question of ASD was raised, and Heather was referred to me at that point. Although Heather was speaking when I saw her, most of her speech consisted of phrases from TV and various children’s videos. She always carried around these silly bathing suits and would become very upset if she couldn’t find them when leaving for school or going out to her grandparents’ house. She restricted her diet to honey-coated cereal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She refused to have her hair brushed and was quite content to walk around with an enormous tussle of blonde hair sticking up all over the place. She would line up little figurines in a long row that stretched out across the room and down the hall and refused to play with her brother, who was just a year older. She cried every time her mother picked her up in her arms and was most content to be left alone to stare at the figurines or to watch TV. She avoided eye

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