The 'Ists Go Marching One by One

I watch her van drive up through the gap in the curtain, where I am waiting on the couch. I watch her get out of her car, organize her things and check our address with her notes. I close the curtain and go to the door.

She is our first specialist appointment. There will be two more of her in the next week. A speech therapist, a developmental specialist, but first her.

"Knock, knock!" she says. She has kind eyes and a clipboard. "I'm here to ask you a lot of questions is all. I'll make it painless."

Too late. We should be at the park right now. We should be nibbling crackers in the sand.

"Great," I say.

She takes a seat on the couch so I sprawl out on the floor.

"Do you want anything to drink?" I say.

"No thank you."

I pick at my nail polish. Stop picking at your nail polish. I can't help it. It's flaking everywhere.

She starts down her list of questions. I answer her quietly. Honestly.

She asks about my pregnancy and Archer's birth and his development. When he sat up for the first time. When he started to crawl. When he walked. How he communicates with us.

"Does he point? Does he wave? Does he hug?"

"Yes. Yes. Yes," I say. "But only sometimes."

She nods and writes something down.

Archer reaches for a glass of water, so naturally she asks us questions about his glass.

"Can he hold it himself?"


"Does he use a spoon and fork?"


She looks me dead in the eye when she asks me questions and it makes me want to look away. I go back to picking my nails and she goes back to watching Archer. I want to read her thoughts. What is she thinking.

"What is your top level of education?" She suddenly asks.

I hate this question. It has nothing to do with anything. It says nothing about me or my intelligence. It says nothing about my work ethic. And surely, it says nothing about Archer.

"Actually, I decided that college wasn't for me," I say. "I explored other options."

"So you're high school educated."

I swallow.

"I'm high school educated," I repeat back to her, knowing that that means something to her on her sheet of notes and statistics. Just like Archer's inability to speak .

And I think about how someone will go down her list of notes and think they know me. Someone will go down her list of notes and think they know Archer.

Why do I have to be so sensitive? She has to ask these questions. It isn't up to her. It's on her sheet. She's doing her job.

But I know she is here to make an assessment. What I say matters. Everything matters.

I cross my arms. I become paranoid, Fear and Loathing in Los Angeles, and I pace the room as Archer runs around in circles over and over, screaming and laughing.

He never runs around in circles like this but suddenly I'm sensitive of the clipboard and her smiling eyes. She watches him and takes notes and I wonder if his running around in circles is "bad" or "not normal" or "cause for concern."

Circles. He runs in circles," I imagine she is thinking. "And his mother has a high school education, nothing more."

I feel very small-- like a little girl, like I have to restrain myself to keep from running in circles, too.

Hours pass.

I answer all of the questions. I don't know what the answers mean to us but I do. I pretend I am comfortable with her in my house, asking me all of these things. Watching Archer. She's a nice woman and I feel terrible for not wanting her, here. But I can't help it. I want her to leave. Now.

"He stacks blocks and spins wheels and smells every flower," I tell her and I love that he does these things but am unsure if I should. She nods and scribbles a note or two.

"I don't think anything is wrong," I say. "Archer's very different. He's special. He's not like the other children but it's by choice. It's because he is unique. I want him to realize that. I want him to grow up knowing what a beautiful thing it is-- to be different. I don't want him to follow the leader or feel comfortable in a crowd. I want him to feel comfortable on his own. With himself. I want his growth to be organic. Hormone-free," I say.

"But it's free of charge, this therapy. And it helps," she says. "I don't know why anyone wouldn't do it. It will be good for him!"

I feel torn. I don't know what to do.

"Hormone-free," I think.

"It helps," she says.

And I don't know who to believe. Myself or this strange woman with kind eyes.

"I guess we'll just wait to hear back and decide what to do from there," I say.

I sign a stack of paperwork. Archer's name is spelled wrong and I wonder if it's a sign. She doesn't know him...

"Shut up," I tell myself. "Just give it a chance. Just see what they have to say."

I thank her for her time. Archer waves goodbye, and together we watch her drive away through the curtains and out of sight.



Anonymous | 2:54 PM

It is pretty scary isnt it....I remember freaking out when I made the appointment with the Orange Countey Regional Center. I took days off from work to completely clean my house from stem to stern because I was afraid that if they saw any mess in the house they would deem me un fit as a parent. Then I started obcessing about whether any of that information would get back to my ex and that he would try to take my kid away. oooooooo it was horrible.
But when she got there she was terrific, when we did the actual assessment with the therapist it was even better and the home based therapist that we got was terrific.
So even though to this day I dont know if my son "needed" the therapy, it was free; it was helpful not only for him to learn and interact with someone else but for me to set my mind at ease and teach me how to deal with some of the other behavior issues that were coming out as a result of the inability to communicate.
Even if you are not sure that he "needs" the therapy do it any way it is beneficial.

Green | 3:02 PM

I only have an associate's degree, one that I got FIVE years after graduating from high school. I come from educated people - I'm the only one in my immediate family who didn't skip a grade OR go to grad school. Yeah that question really burns me too.

Did you tell her you've written a book (or is it two books now)?

Whatever help you do or don't get for your son, I hope he can easily communicate what makes him comfortable, whether it's being on his own or being in a crowd.

Style Police | 3:16 PM

You're not alone

divrchk | 4:00 PM

As much as you don't want to be going through this, it is the right thing to do. If the powers that be decide that he needs help, he will get it as soon as possible and you all can move on. If the powers that be decide that all is good, you have peace of mind. Either way, you know how great he is, no matter what, and that is what is important.

divrchk | 4:02 PM

Oh, and thank you for continuing to update us with this facet of life. I think you are helping many people by documenting this struggle.

Anonymous | 4:05 PM

The most important piece of advice I can give you as you go through this process is to not take it personally. It has nothing to do with you, your level of education, your parenting. . . nothing! So let yourself off the hook and give it a shot. It was hard for me at first to accept that Caleb had a developmental delay. He was a late roller, crawler, walker, etc. but it didn't seem real until we went through the Regional center process. I am so glad I let go of the mentality that he was just fine and would catch up because he a problem that would not have fixed itself.
Yesterday he had a psychological eval through the school district since he is almost 3 and will transition into school district services. I felt the same way you did even though I have been doing this a year. At any rate, he tested at a GIFTED level on all of the cognitive evals despite his speech disability. It is possible to have a delay in one area and be exceptional in another (or in many as in Archer's case I'm sure).
LMK if you need to talk about this!
Take care.

gabrielle | 4:09 PM

Just delurking long enough to say that I hope things get better for you as a mommy. Not for Archer, because he seems like a wonderful little boy who is very secure and loved by his parents, and what else could a child ask for.

But for you, as a mom, I hurt. I can't pretend that I understand exactly what you're going through, but I understand the worry that other people don't understand your child mixed with the worry that there maybe is something going on. My Little Dude has always been on the long side of developmental milestones, and luckily, we have had many understanding teachers in daycare and a great pediatrician. But when we moved and put him in a different daycare, his teachers seemed to think that he was 'off' because he wasn't exactly like her other charges. He's not, and we wouldn't want him to be. But sometimes, we worry that when he goes to regular school (he's 4), that his teachers will not be the understanding kind, but the judgmental kind. We know he's a little different, and we love it, but will other pople be too quick to slap labels on him? And are we too quick to say nothing's wrong and not seek out help? Aaah! Parenting is such a bitch sometimes. :)

Sorry for such a long comment. The bottom line is that you love your child, and no matter what else happens, and no matter what anyone else says, that's not going to change. If you dig deep down, I think you will know what is right for your son. That's your job, and from this side, it looks like you are doing a good job of it. Best wishes for all of you.

Anonymous | 4:13 PM

Hang in there. And I agree with Jessica... sometimes I think having kids this age associate with another type of authority figure is helpful. My son will try things for other people that he won't for me. And if it's free, why not?

I'm entering Chance into a two-year-old preschool program, which basically means he'll be "assessed" just like Archer but I'll be paying for it. Oh, and I'm also due for a "development evaluation" with his pediatrician in 3 more months.

You're a great mom with a great kid regardless!

Anonymous | 4:15 PM

No one ever knows a child as well as thier mother does. (((HUGS))) Sometimes the hardest thing to do is follow your own heart, especially when it goes against modern ideas. People are too quick to drug away actions they don't like in their kids.

karrie | 4:36 PM

I've been there, but it is even worse: I live minutes from Harvard and MIT and I have a GED ina sea of PhDs, MDs, JDs, etc. I remembering opening my door to Early Intervention, certain that they were judging me, and looking for all kinds of character flaws that might explain my son's lack of expressive language.

Fast forward six months: my son has a speech therapist who we both adore--she's someone I would love under any circumstances-- and after a mysterious verbal explosion one week, he never stops talking.

I do have other concerns though--he exhibits some red flags for behaviors on the autism spectrum and/or sensory seeking stuff--and truly his SLP has been my biggest supporter in seeking additional help for my son.

Hang in there. A lot of SLPs are really cool,down to earth people who just groove on helping little kids. Unless your house was a death trap,reeked of garbage and your son answered the door wearing a sagging diaper and a crust of snot across his face, then I doubt you or your home environment raised any flags. :)

karengreeners | 4:40 PM

Everything you said about Archer is true and important, and will remain so even if you decide to take their help. And it will also be up to you to decide how much of it you want, and where you might think the benefit ends. Trust yourself, and maybe get a new pedicure.

Jen | 4:59 PM

Girl, I feel your heartache and want you to know that I appreciate your being so candid and soul baring. I know how you feel about your education, shoot, I dropped out in 11th grade but couldn't be prouder of myself as I show up for my diploma classes in need of 20 more credits. Try not to be so hard on yourself. You are a big inspiration to a lot of people and your talent as a writer goes beyond any kind of educational levels . Keep the faith

Misha | 5:54 PM

Did you tell her, "No, I didn't go to college, but I have a book deal because I am a brilliant writer and an even better Mom"? I think you should!~

Sharon | 6:05 PM

{{HUGS}} to you, momma. I can't imagine how hard this must be on you. However, just know that you have a whole group of folks out there in the cyberworld rooting for you.

Binky | 6:26 PM

I'm just wondering how she misspelled Archer. I mean, there aren't many ways to go wrong there. Archur? Artcher? You should offer your editing services :) College diploma be damned!

This was a fantastic post.

Chicky Chicky Baby | 6:33 PM

I admit I was taken aback when asked about my highest level of education. Would it put my child in a different category if I was a high school dropout instead of a college graduate?

I've never felt so exposed as when being interviewed by that same agency and I very much appreciate how you wrote this post. Perfect. Just like Archer.

Anonymous | 7:16 PM

Hey, I am so glad you decided to share this. I can't tell you how much it means to know that I am not the only one who sweats the "Judgement" thing even though I am one of life's accidental "over achievers". You know, you really are quite amazing and other people will see that shine from you in person, I am sure, as those that read you see it through your written word.

My eldest was much like Archer; I won't give them any moniker...when the world is so amazing and exciting for them that every day is an adventure, who needs to label it?

We weren't offered help...we lived in England back then and the "system" and it's people are far less willing to "help" there. I don't know whether it has infact helped or hindered that we had no full assessments. My eldest baby is eight now and here in Australia, his school has entered him into the "ist" world. If it helps? fabulous; if not? He's outta there. I have only one goal - his happiness. I don't want him to feel he has to conform. I guess we can only take each day (and each session!) as it comes. Trust your instincts though, they've raised a beautiful little boy thus far! x

Anonymous | 7:17 PM

Therapy, if you do go that route, will not change the fundamental Archer-ness of Archer.

And if it eases your mind any, I don't think your level of education affects how they evaluate your particular case; I think that's mostly for statistical purposes, so they can determine who's using these services, what demographic groups need them most, and which demographic groups they should be trying to reach out to more.

Anonymous | 7:54 PM

you are so wonderful and so strong. all the hugs in the world. xoxox.

Anonymous | 8:28 PM

while i agree that therapy is a wonderful thing, i also know how scary it is to think about handing your child over in this way.

it will help.

it may help.

either way.

if there was something wrong - really wrong - with archer, you'd know it. YOU would KNOW.

it may help.

but it won't hurt.

your protection of archer's wonderful, special archer-ness is beautiful, and inspirational. my thoughts are with both of you...

lmb | 8:45 PM

I wish I had something to say that was comforting or all-knowing. I don't think you're wrong, though, because if you want Archer to know those things, that being different is a good thing, then he is going to know them despite all the ists. The ists cannot get in the way of that; not if you're there.

Felicia | 8:51 PM

Just remember to breath. Just tell yourself to breath. It will be ok. Do not let them define your or Archer you guys define yourself. If he does need help it does not define him. He defines himself. This is no way shap or form make you a bad mom. You are awesome. You define yourself. Remember to breath.

Major Bedhead | 9:57 PM

I remember having all these feelings when I was going thru this with O. And then she was diagnosed with diabetes and I though "aha! That was the problem." Only it wasn't. She still needed help, more help than I could give and I felt like such a horrible parent for not being able to teach her. Isn't that what we're supposed to do? Mold their little minds, make them ready for the world? I felt like a failure. But then I talked to the people who do this work, who help these kids and they eventually set my mind at ease. It took a while until I could stop feeling judged, stop feeling guilty. I still beat myself up at times, as I'm sure most parents do.

It's not easy, but you will get thru this. Archer will not lose his Archer-ness because he gets some early intervention. He will still be your Archer, and you will still be his amazing, articulate, incredible mother.

Anonymous | 12:39 AM

You know your son. He is special and so so lucky to have such a cool mum who will love and accept every part of him.
Meetings like this are always stressful but I'm sure Archer will be chuntering away with his buddies by the time he starts school


i would have held your hand and paced every square centimeter of that floor with you. i felt everything you felt the moment before i read that you felt it. NO! BEC! Don't say that...or should you? There's nothing wrong with him. You don't *know* them. You don't know *him*. All of that. And I know it lasted for a couple of hours, this questioning, but does this same 'ist make a second and third visit to get an objective sense of what it's like to be in your household when you're not totally stressed out and your kid isn't reacting to your superhigh frequency of worry and panic? do they? will they read your blog and go back through his history to see how he is and what he does and the ways in which he interacts with his environment? that is a whole picture to me. not just a few hours on the couch. how about a walk in the neighborhood? a trip to the park?

i detest 'ists as much as standardized testing. who wants standard kids? nobody i want to be friends with. finding out what they love, and how to teach the basics via a child's own interests is a better way for 'ists and society to learn that there are fewer 'isms than we think, just different ways of processing info - just in my 'istic (relatively uninformed and usually very ignorant) opinion. just kidding, i'm always right.

grab some xannies, stat, and relax, mama. this thing is on. treat the 'ists like novel characters. trust your gut. be as brave as you were on the day you found out you and archer were going to be a team forever. this is part of all that. you can't beat anyone up for doing what they're supposedta. that includes yourself, the 'ists, arch, and your whole family as a unit.

i still think he should be evaluated by an alternative therapist who specializes in working with children and animals or children and music, since these are the things to which archer so clearly and passionately responds.

always here. always crazy in love.
make it a pink day.


p.s. the education thing is usually for research purposes. you know, statistics. the same statistics by which you all will be compared. see? standardization is stoopid. nothing should be standard but door sizes and cell phone chargers.

i bet they didn't ask you the number of books you had published by the age of 26. now did they?

Anonymous | 6:34 AM

Sending bigs hugs.

Loukia | 7:13 AM

It must have been tough for you. But you know your son is 100% okay. No two toddlers are the same, you know. When my son was hospitalized with his kidney infection, with an IV in his hand that we had to watch them try and try again to put in, after all that shock and tears, the doctor comes in and asks us questions. "Do you live in an apartment or a house?" "Do either of you smoke?" "Do you have carpets or hardwood?" "Where do you work?" We wanted to punch her lights out. What the heck do any of those questions have to do with anything?
Anyway, your son is gorgeous and smart and it is okay that he is not speaking yet. He will!

kittenpie | 10:39 AM

It's hard not to feel judged about so many things, in so many ways, especially when it seems like it might have bearing on how people view us as parents. When we know how they are slotting it in with statistics. Hell, a lot of autistic kids have highly educated parents, actually.

I am lucky enough not to have been here myself yet, but I know there is always some chance. I imagine it must be so hard, so nervous-making, so difficult as to make us want to deny or rebel or hide in our shell. You wrote about it beautifully, and I felt it. But I also think you are right to give it a chance, because while I don't think anyone is seeking to change Archer's being, it might help him communicate his Archerness better with you, with the world.

Anyone, anyone, can tell how much you treasure this little boy, honey. We always fear for the ones we love.

metro mama | 11:45 AM

Thanks for sharing this so candidly with us Rebecca. I think there are lots of people going through similar doubts.

Scar | 12:04 PM

I love you praying mantis.

pnutsmama | 1:08 PM

just wanted to let you know that four of my 6 nephews have had speech therapy (two diff fams), all for delayed speech of various forms, and all have done kick ass well as a result. the kids end up developing a real bond with their therapists (they get to sit and play on the floor for an hour!) and the therapists i know really care about the kids they serve. my sister decided to wait with her youngest b/c she thought "he'll get there eventually" but by 5 he still wasn't speaking clearly so he started a few months ago and the improvement is marked.

i also have a good friend whose daughter didn't speak til just before three and she never did a thing for it and now the kid won't shut up. another friend who had a boy who only shrieked and she was terrified of autism (and she's an RN)- he had speech therapy and now is wowing them in kindergarten. i'm sure i could go on and on but the reason why i wanted to drop this note is to give you some others experiences to not feel so alone, b/c it is easy to feel alone right now.

my own pnut never figured out how to move on her own. we waited and waited for her to roll over, transition from the floor to sitting, crawl, pull-up, walk, you name it. each well baby check up i felt like i was the worst mother ever for having to say "no. no. no. not doing that either" we have a great kid that wasn't interested in doing anything but lay there- i figured, what do you expect from two former stoners? by 12 months we finally agreed to have her evaluated, and of course she qualified and we had the most incredible lady come 2x a week to show her how to make the connections between wanting/needing to move and moving. pnut loved this woman, and i developed a friendship with her, and actually cried the day she "graduated" on her last day of therapy about a month ago.

i have been in school my whole damn life it feels like, but i still didn't have the specific skills my kid needed to show her how to move. and that hurt me, but i couldn't let my issues get in the way of what she needed. in the end i had to let go of my control issues and trust that these people wanted to help us, and could. you'll do what is right for archer and your family. hang in there.

Heather | 1:18 PM


Many thoughts to you and Archer while you go through this.

Anonymous | 2:40 PM

This is incredible. I haven't been by in a long time, but this means I gotta stay.:-)

Anonymous | 2:57 PM

god i wish i could meet you and archer. i could tell you if there was a cause for concern. how about you move to ny and put him in my class and we see how it goes? you can bring scarlett with you and she can stay at sloan kettering. it's perfect.

clueless but hopeful mama | 6:37 PM

I just wanted to join the chorus of support for you. You are a brave and selfless mama to bite your tongue and swallow your pride and try to see if these 'ists' have anything to offer you and Archer. Your mama bear instincts are so right and so true AND you can put them aside for a moment to see who and what may help you and Archer. I know that can't be easy and I am so impressed by you for that.

AbbieBabble | 8:10 PM

I'm not a parent, so I couldn't possibly understand what you're going through, but like anonymous up above, I wish I could meet you guys. I wish I could watch Archer play and play with him and get to know him and see if he needs help and if I could help him.

He is fine. He is Archer, and as you know better than I ever will, he is wonderful and amazing and perfect. And if these people, who are undoubtedly scary and terrifying and annoying as all hell, are any good at their jobs, what they want to do is get to know him, too. Get to know him and help him be even more like himself. More Archer-y. So other people can know him and love him, too. But still, I'm sorry you have to have to deal with all the -ists.

Meemo | 3:15 AM

What a lucky little boy he is to have you as his mom. That's what I kept thinking when I read your post.

Hang in there. He'll still be the same kid, with or without the "ists".

Heather | 5:54 AM

Rebecca, I finally wrote the post that I've been sitting on for a few weeks now. I know Archer and Payton aren't in the exact same boat but maybe in the same water? It's on my blog now...I don't know if you would find any peace in it or not but I felt inspired to tell you about it.

Anonymous | 8:18 AM

Im sure this wasn't easy. Think of it as one more notch in your mommy belt. If nothing else, it's another learning experience, right?

PunditMom | 11:09 AM

As others have said, you're not alone. I haven't written about it yet, but I've been thinking about these posts in light of some new "testing" of "analysis" some have suggested for PunditGirl. I worry for her. Not because of the "testing" -- because of the labeling I know will happen. How do I protect her from that?

Julie Marsh | 8:42 PM

Our appointment is Monday. Right there with you, my friend.

Anonymous | 2:33 PM

Get out of you.... the appointment was about and for Archer...not you!

mo-wo | 10:51 PM

Keep your 'ist skepicism. As a school board employee I know how our systems work and the need of these modern insititutions to develop assessment tools from THEIR point of view.

Archer should do whatever at his convenience not at the convenience of the institutionalize faux-norms. Isn't he like fucking 2? This is pre-presumptive-early intervention it seems.

I thought of this post the other day watching my son's gears turning at another telephone conversation I had. There must be 50 communications gizmos that fuck with the language development streams of this generation.

Let the ists stuff that in their pipes n smoke it, eh?

BOSSY | 9:11 AM

Hang in there kiddo.

scarbie doll | 10:58 AM

Bec, I remember going through this after Nate's stroke. They would examine him as though under a microscope. It would instill fear in my heart and make me second guess my gut instinct -- that everything would be fine.

Assuming that it's not to do with his hearing, I think that Archer's not-speaking reflects how close you two are. He doesn't even need words to communicate with you. You just instinctively know what he needs and that's beautiful.

Hold on to what you feel in your gut, in your heart. Whatever they tell you won't change your love for Archer or your relationship. It might only add words to where there were none before.

Anonymous | 5:25 PM

Hi, you have no idea who I am---occassional lurker that I am---but my son didn't talk until he turned two. Not a word. Except the occassional vrrroom for car. I started to have him evaluated, then we moved. Approximately 1-2 mo after he turned two, he suddenly started talking. A LOT. And you know, he's never done a damn thing until he's good and ready, but as soon as he's ready-BOOM. He also didn't crawl until 13 mo, and didn't walk until he was 16.5 mo. The therapists do nothing that you can't do yourself---if he doesn't want to talk yet, that's ok! Logan BTW is now 5 yrs old and you cannot tell at all that he was once behind---he's never been to a therapist or had any kind of preschool or special help----right now we are homeschooling and he is learning to read. He just turned 5.

Big hugs and I know EXACTLY how you are feeling----but I tell you, if you know in your heart he's ok, don't let someone talk you into him being not okay. And you are not required to do ANYTHING that you are not comfrotable with---and if you are not comfrotalbe with evaluations and labeling, then screw em. You know he is okay.