This seems to be the comment I have gotten most often since Marley’s official diagnosis was made at Kennedy Krieger.
“I know you’re glad to have an answer.” and things in that vein.
Heck, MY facebook status update after leaving KKI was : “There is so much more to our story/adventure, but the important thing is WE HAVE A DIAGNOSIS.”
I don’t expect anyone to know what to say– especially when they are commenting on my status and seeing how I phrased it… it makes sense I would read those responses.
When the doctor began our goodbyes from Krieger, she stated that I should, “take some time to process it and send (her) an email/be in touch” with any questions, etc.
Time to process it? Psh. I “knew” already. I “knew” when I made the appointment. I was relieved just to have someone tell me what I had thought all along…. to put it on paper so we could move forward.
I THOUGHT I knew but — and I know this is so cliche/Real World MTV— I had no clue.
…and in the tradition of the Real World opener that (some) of us know so well….
“This is the true story… of Marley, Mommy, and Killian… picked to roadtrip to Baltimore…work(ing) towards answers and blogging… to explain what happens… when the doctor looks at you… and says…Autism.”
If you’re new to Marley, stop… or didn’t know we were going to Baltimore, you can find that story here.
We left after picking Chloë up from school on Tuesday, 11/1/11. She was going to stay with my grandma for a bit until my mom got off of work, then they would go to dinner, mom would take her to school Wednesday and Ben would pick her up at the bus stop that evening.
I ended up leaving the area around 5:30pm, about the same time as Mandi and her dad. We hoped to meet up in Fredricksburg for dinner. The kids slept until we got off of the interstate to find the restaurant. Dinner at Sammy T’s was yummy and dessert was delish. I took Marley to the restroom after handing over my debit card to Mandi so that we could get back on the road. I came back to her telling me that she had them fix me a soda to go. At that moment, I thought that was amazingly sweet of her but that I didn’t really need it. I’ve seen her get ‘one for the road’ at various lunch or dinner dates we’ve done, but it’s not something I ever do. She and her dad walked the kids and I to the car and helped me navigate back to the interstate. They stopped to get gas a few blocks from the on ramp and I went ahead towards Baltimore.
As I’m driving, I keep hearing my phone say “GPS signal lost”… well, that sucks. We have a GPS, but I left it at home since I’ve used the one on my phone before (but only in Virginia) and it’s one less thing to keep up with. It wasn’t long before traffic was at a stand still. THIS was why she got me a soda to go– maybe this is why she usually gets herself one to go– she travels a lot and is probably highly aware that the one time you’ll want a soda and not have one is when you’re stuck in traffic. For so many reasons I’m glad we were Baltimore bound on the same night, but this was the tiniest sweetest thing that is so typical of her. She knew what I needed even before I did. A few minutes into the jam my phone buzzed with a text. “I see you.” It was Mandi– she and her dad were coming up on my left side as traffic was merging into one lane. I let them in front of me and was able to follow them right into the city while my GPS kept chirping about the lost signal every 10 minutes. Their hotel was less than a mile from the interstate and I followed them into the parking lot to say goodbye and thank you. I should have taken it as a sign that Ron offered me their GPS. My hotel was only 10 minutes away, I said, and I should be fine. Silly me.
Getting to the hotel wasn’t that bad– I did, however, decide that picking up breakfast from the 24 hour Dunkin’ Donuts a few minutes from the hotel before check in was NOT going to happen while I hoped that my hotel was, in fact, in the ‘upscale shopping center’ the reviews claimed it was since I was obviously in the ghetto currently.
I pulled into the entrance to the shopping center and was greeted by a small building with a gate. The security guard asked my name and directed me to the hotel. I wound through the parking lots and was able to park close to the main doors of the Radisson Hotel at Cross Keys.
I woke up Marley and Killian, grabbed our suitcase and headed to check in. Once in the lobby, Marley was fascinated by the lounge area and the fire place. She wandered around scoping things out while I got our room keys. I asked the gentleman at the desk if it was possible to get a room with no guests on either side as Marley has Autism and can sometimes get quite loud– as can Killian. He easily accommodated my request and we were given a room on the top floor. As he handed me the room keys, he reassured me “don’t worry about the noise. Have a nice night.” I don’t think he’ll ever truly know just how loaded my “Thank you” was that night.
[As I type this, I feel like I need to pause and mention that yet again I stammered ‘She has autism’ to explain Marley to a stranger. It seems to be the easiest thing for me to say to quickly explain her behavior, awkward comments, or sensitivities. Not only are ‘sensory processing disorder’ and ‘Aspergers’ nearly unknown in the community outside of families with loved ones who have either as a diagnosis, but even if the person I’m speaking to doesn’t know exactly what Autism is, they’ve likely at least heard of it. Each time I’ve said it, though, I get this nagging feeling like I’m lying– but I don’t know what else to say.]
Anyway, by the time we got into the room, it was after 11:30pm. The room was nice, with a cathedral ceiling and two Sleep Number beds stacked with down pillows.
Marley immediately claimed her bed and snuggled down into the comforter. Killian was checking out all the door handles and mirrors while I tried to find something kid friendly on tv at midnight. I found the room service menu and placed our breakfast order for 6:45am–this was a lifesaver since Marley wasn’t allowed to eat after 7am but we didn’t need to be at KKI until 8:30am. Since they had slept the entire drive up, I spent the next two hours trying to convince Marley and Killian to sleep before we all finally caught up with those elusive Zzzz’s.
Way too soon, there was a knock on our door and our breakfast had arrived. The huge tray was filled with danishes, pancakes, bacon, orange juice, fresh coffee, chocolate milk, and a large bowl of fresh fruit. (I will say– I was impressed– the total was under $30 and everything tasted great! If we end up needing an overnight again, I would definitely stay at the same hotel!).
After breakfast, Marley took a bath and then we all got dressed. She decided that the shower cap she used to keep water/soap out of her hair during the bath was the perfect accessory to her outfit and insisted on wearing it to KKI. I repacked our suitcase and we headed downstairs to check out. in the car, I set the GPS to get us to Kennedy Krieger and we were on our way. I seriously underestimated the traffic going into downtown at 8am. We sat in traffic as the minutes ticked by. The GPS signal kept dropping and my attempts to call Alli (the awesome research coordinator) were not going well– I kept getting sent to other voicemail boxes by the automated system. I finally looked up the intake email on my phone and scanned it for the cell number that I remembered it included.
“Elaine Tierney”, the voice answered.
“Hi, this is Carmen Briggs and I was trying to reach Alli Koch”, I said nervously– I had called the Doctor’s cell. I explained who I was and she immediately commented about reading Marley’s blog, asked me what I saw and on which side of me, then pulled up a map and talked me through the next 10(ish) blocks of driving. I apologized for being late and lost, and she reassured me that they expect this and build in a bit of a time cushion. Have I mentioned how amazing she and Alli have been thus far?
I made it to the building and pulled into the valet parking. I’ve never been so glad to see a valet in my whole life– and told the attendant as much… he probably thought I was crazy, but he was so helpful and sweet as I unloaded Marley, Killian, the double stroller, a big clunky toy for Killian and my diaper bag. I walked into the building, checked in, and headed to the 2nd floor.
After waiting a few moments, wandering around looking lost, and asking at a desk where it became obvious that I was not where I should be, my phone rang. It was Alli. I was in the wrong building. In my frenzy to find the valet and be finished driving, I had forgotten the part of the very detailed email (and instructions from Dr. Tierney just before I pulled in) that stated that their office was in the building across the street from the valet. At this point, I am half an hour late and feeling totally flustered– not at all like the capable road trippin’ momma I try to be (usually am?). Alli met us at the valet area and walked with us back to her building.
Once upstairs, we reviewed the 11 page consent form (which went quickly since I had already read it at least 3 times since Alli emailed it to me).
We were then introduced to the doctor who would be doing the evaluation. (When I changed the date of the appointment so that it would match up with Mandi’s, it turned out that we would be seeing a different doctor for the eval, but that Dr. Tierney would be in towards the end of our day.)
After so little sleep, a rushed breakfast, driving in circles on the way in, and being told that she’d have to wait to get her blood drawn (yes– she was actually EXCITED about getting that done), Marley was in no mood for a meeting. She wanted to go to the play room I had told her about, but it wasn’t open yet. Even on a good day she isn’t a fan of hearing me talk about her, so listening as I answered questions about her behavior was the final straw. She went into “Grr mode” and clenched into herself on the stroller while growling whenever the doctor spoke or asked a question. After a few questions the doctor looked at me and said “I don’t see ASD (autism spectrum disorder).” and then asked if Marley wanted to go to the playroom (so that she could observe her). It took a few tries before Marley would answer politely and we walked down to the playroom.
Once there, Marley was a happy camper and did really well picking out toys and putting them back when she was finished. The doctor wanted to see if Marley would share with the assistant while I tried to distract Killian and not hover. I did notice that each time the assistant would ask if she could have a turn, Marley would decline and give a list of things she needed to do before she would be finished. This changed when Marley brought out a toy register. While pressing buttons the drawer came out and surprised her; she immediately handed money to the assistant. The doctor sat down with them and Marley handed her money as well. The assistant tried to ‘buy’ a scarf in the room from Marley, asking how much it cost, etc. Marley agreed to sell it but wouldn’t take any money– she instead handed the woman more money from the till. The doctor then excused herself to take me back into the office for the rest of the meeting.
She stated that she didn’t know what to think, but that Marley can make eye contact and shares, so she doesn’t see ASD. (I had told her that Marley will give you something on HER terms, but doesn’t necessarily engage in reciprocal sharing. Once she gives it, it’s yours. To Marley, money is given. Never has she been given money and asked for it back. I felt like this was well illustrated in how she played with the toy register in the playroom.)
After telling me a few times that she “doesn’t see ASD”, she finally said that she thinks it is ODD. My heart sank. I wanted to run. I wanted to cry. ODD is Oppositional Defiant Disorder. In short, ODD is described as:
Signs and Symptoms
Some signs and symptoms that must be perpetuated for longer than 6 months and must be considered beyond normal child behavior to fit the diagnosis are:
- Actively defies or refuses to comply with adults’ requests or rules
- Deliberately doing things that will annoy other people
- Angry and resentful of others
- Argues with adults
- Blames others for own mistakes
- Has few or no friends or has lost friends
- Is in constant trouble in school
- Spiteful or seeks revenge
- Touchy or easily annoyed
^That^ is NOT Marley. I read about ODD when we first began this search for answers about why Marley was constantly touching us/Chloë and why she was so sensitive. My child who, on a good/low trigger day, gets commended by strangers for saying “Please/Thank you/Sir/Ma’am” and relates to adults better than anyone is NOT that child. My child who, on a day where her schedule has been completely thrown out of whack, is growly and unsettled is NOT defiant or deliberately annoying. ODD didn’t fit Marley at all, but one of the sites did link to information about Sensory Processing Disorder– which I brought up to our pediatrician and she agreed that Marley has.
To have a physician essentially tell me that my child has a behavioral issue and dismiss the rest of my concerns was the ultimate blow. I didn’t say much to her– I didn’t know what to say.
By now, it was time for bloodwork. There was much paperwork left to do and Alli came to walk us down to the lab. She asked how I was holding up and I got teary– “She says it’s ODD, but I know it’s not. I just…”. She was sympathetic and calming. At some point in the walk (or while we were in the lab– so much of this day has run together), Alli informed me that Dr. Tierney wanted to meet us personally and do a full ADI evaluation herself.
…and that is a whole other post…. 🙂 (along with the adventure in the lab– that was hilarious!)