Guest post by Emily Colson
I brought my son Max to a neurophysiologist’s office for an evaluation. If you aren’t familiar with a “neuropsych eval,” it is a two-hour process in which you must:
- Remain sitting.
- Give the illusion that you are paying attention while you remain sitting.
Back then, when Max was nine years old, and already years into the diagnosis of autism, fulfilling any of these three requirements was as likely as sprouting gills. Actually, it’s a little known fact that Einstein came up with his Theory of Relativity (E=MC2, the idea that everything in the universe is in constant motion) by watching a child with autism take a neuropsych eval.
As we finished the testing I could feel my shoulders pull tightly toward my neck, like involuntary isometric exercises. I braced myself for the doctor’s response. And do you know what he said about Max?
Neither do I.
All these years later, I don’t remember the results. But I vividly remember how the doctor said it.
“Our kids usually test this way,” he said.
I stared at this man who had a long string of letters after his name, and I wondered, did he mean to say that? And then, he said it again.
“Our kids … something-something-something.”
“Our kids?” I thought. He didn’t say, “Your kid.” He said, “Our kids.”
As a single mom – overwhelmed, living as a hostage of autism, feeling isolated and alone – that little word “our” rolled through my mind and knocked down everything in its path. Suddenly, everything crumbled. This wall of anxiety that was bracing me for the terrible news that would certainly be delivered, the intense weight of feeling like I am doing this alone – it all dropped away. Even my steel-plated protective armor, that has taken me years to build, fell right off.
But he didn’t stop there. This doctor added other tiny little two-letter words. Words that would never be considered interesting enough to qualify for a spelling bee championship, or fashionable enough to tattoo on one’s arm. They would be considered vocabulary-lite.
He began to say, “We” and “Us.”
My brain pulled out a giant blue pen and drew circles around those unifying words. And my shoulders began to drop. Autism is too big to be a me; I needed to be a we. I needed to have more “our” and “us” in my life. I wanted to jump up and hug this man, or burst into tears, or ask him if we could be Facebook friends once someone invented it. But instead I put my arm around my beautiful, wiggly, E=MC2 son, knowing I was far less alone than when I walked in.
“Thank you,” I said softly, wondering if he understood the power of those words.
Emily Colson is a popular speaker, and author of the award winning book, Dancing with Max: A Mother and Son Who Broke Free.
This blog post is republished with permission. It originally appeared as Those Words that Let Us Know We Aren’t Alone.