When my son was four years old I spent a lot of time at the pediatrician’s office. Severely autistic, my son could not tell me when something hurt, what part of him hurts or that he did not feel well. He couldn’t answer me if I asked him if a part of his body were bothering him, he only repeated what I said. Therefore, I was constantly bringing him to the doctor if his behavior was different and I suspected he may not be feeling well.
On the whole, I like the practice that we go to. However, there are a handful of doctors that were completely ignorant regarding the subject of autism. What’s worse than this is the fact that they believed they were more knowledgeable about my son’s condition than I was.
In one instance, I tried to tell the doctor that my son did not understand what he was saying. All he did was yes me to death, continue to talk to Michael, and then tell me to “shush” as I tried to explain to him that Michael did not comprehend the language. He was so rude as to tell me that my son did understand what he was saying and continued to try to prod my son into following his instructions.
I wanted to scream as my son became even more frustrated.
In another instance, the doctor came and spoke loudly to Michael, who became frightened the instant this man walked into the room. Then the pediatrician got mad at him, angry and irritated when my son refused to get on the examination table. The doctor huffed and puffed and then left the room. When he returned, I apologized to him and he proceeded to tell me that he felt bad because he only had to deal with this when he saw Michael but I had to deal with it every day. This comment did not make me feel like he empathized, but rather that he saw the situation as pathetic.
If they were informed about autism, they would know that it’s a spectrum disorder and there are all different levels of receptive language comprehension. How dare they have a patronizing attitude towards me, the parent - the mom who is well aware of her son’s knowledge and understands autism better than any doctor ever could.
After seeing these particular doctors time and again (in cases of emergency), I found myself becoming more and more infuriated by their continual condescending attitude. I would love for them to read up on the condition and become better informed. You would think they would want to acquire more knowledge, as the population is growing at an exponential rate.
As a parent, I have enough to cope with on a daily basis, let alone having to deal with ignorance on the part of my son’s doctors. Furthermore, shouldn’t they be people to lean on and trust? It is bad enough that these particular doctors are not informed, but then to go around acting like they know more about a child and his knowledge than the child’s mom or caretaker takes an unbelievable amount of gall! How about some compassion and concern? Or perhaps some questions as to my son’s progress or helpful ideas in dealing with the daily struggles that I have to face?
Now that my son is 10, in the last few years, I have insisted on seeing the doctors in the practice that show patience, understanding and concern. The few physicians who initially only wanted to demonstrate that they knew more than I do are now gentler with Michael and a bit more willing to listen to what I have to say. We have made some progress but we still have a long way to go.