‘I’m sorry, Mrs Barnard, but your son has a significant delay.’
The doctor smiles, as if it can alleviate the problem she’s just confirmed. For years, I’d been worried about my little man, his poor grades on each school report, his preference for being alone. And now, this woman has the audacity to grin?
She’s still talking, I realise. I’ve missed integral information.
‘…and we can monitor his progress better.’
I clear my throat. I’ve no idea what she just said. Too embarrassed to admit I lost attention, I decide to bluff. ‘How does that help us?’
Dr Terrence speaks again. I guess some of what she’s telling me now is a repeat of earlier. My boy has what she calls a common cluster of issues, aligned with those on the spectrum. She hasn’t once mentioned the term ‘autism’, but I’m no fool.
Once she pauses for breath, I seize my opportunity. ‘He has ASD?’
The doctor smiles again. It is sad, wry, as if she knew I’d ask the question and she’s ready to bat it away.
‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Mrs Barnard. There’s all manner of testing involved to conclusively determine whether a child is autistic.’
‘But in your professional opinion?’
She sighs. ‘It’s likely. Yes.’
Tommy is on the floor, lining up trains from the clinic’s toy box. He’s intent on the task, his tongue resting out of his mouth, on his lower lip.
The road ahead will be long. But he’s my boy and we’ll do it together.