I was relieved and happy when my mentor signed my dissertation and gave me a handshake, “Congratulations”, and a bottle of sparkling wine. I didn’t have much time to be immersed in the relief and joy. I had to submit the copies to the official. She was quick. All she cared was whether the pages were numbered correctly. There were lots of strict rules in formatting. She flipped through the page in one swift motion. It took maybe about three seconds to look through my 250 page dissertation. She told me that she would detect if something was wrong. Fortunately, my dissertation passed her test and was accepted. Next stop was binding shop in the library. I needed to have my copies bound like a book. There I also submit the paperwork and check to copyright my thesis, and ordered several book binding: one for my mentor, one for library, one for myself, and one for my husband. I remember I ordered five binding but I don’t remember whom I gave the fifth bound copy. After all, it was 13 years ago.
I had a babysitter available for the party. My mentor and lab friends knew I could drink a lot and my mentor was somewhat worried 😉 Yet I knew I couldn’t get drunk. Once I finished all the dissertation work, I was swept with fear about K’s speech evaluation in two days. Of course he didn’t know. No one except my husband, who was a post-doc in the same lab. So everyone who passed by the hallway like other professors or janitor congratulated me and had a bottle or two of beer. (believe or not, it was absolutely okay to have a party with alcohol in the hallway of research building. We even brought bottles of beer in the lab…I’m not sure if this practice is still okay or not.)
Anyhow, I came back home with K. I was in no way in a mood to enjoy, but my husband was sort of excited. He was so happy that I finally finished my Ph.D., after lots of struggles. He supported me through my journey to Ph.D, in America! He wasn’t concerned about the upcoming speech evaluation at all. After all, he hadn’t read all the webpages about autism and intellectual disabilities I read while printing my dissertation in the lab during the night. I didn’t want to ruin his happiness.
Then the day of speech evaluation came.
It was a small room with a huge mirror (I think observation room was attached). The SLP, a nice, middle-aged lady, cheerfully came in and played….no, TRIED to play with K. I was shocked to see his unresponsiveness. Was it just me who believed that K and I enjoyed playing each other? And I was shocked to see the demand of play she introduced. Was he supposed to play THAT? He simply didn’t know how to play.
She interviewed me and my husband. I didn’t know much about child development, as I believed that each child can grow at his or her own pace and I didn’t think that being delayed was wrong…so in hindsight, I revealed my complete lack of awareness on what a 18 months old should be doing.
Then after a long, probably 5 min— my heart was pounding with fear— wait, the SLP came back. Her eyes looked wet to me. She never made eye contact until she finished her verdict: K was probably autistic. I was almost sure by that time that was indeed the case, but being told by a professional still had a real blow. She explained that she was not allowed to make an official diagnosis and she told me to contact his primary care pediatrician to make a referral (again!) to UC Davis MIND institute for the definitive diagnostic tests. She also told me to contact ALTA Regional center to start “early intervention”. That time, I even didn’t know the term “early intervention”!
I was crying on the way back, but I needed to get ready for our Disney vacation.
Anyway, we arrived at my apartment. I started to cry. My husband’s response was totally different.
“We probably showed him too much TV. Let’s cut back and he will be fine.”
Lucky him. I was too exhausted with my thesis as well so I didn’t have any mental room to outrage. Besides, in hindsight, part of me really wanted to believe him.
To be continued.