Hearing, But Not Listening

“Mr. & Mrs. Dawson, I think something is wrong with Callie. His teachers have informed me that when they call his name, he doesn’t answer and when they ask him to do anything, he ignores them or looks as though he does not understand. I observed him on a couple of occasions – – one being when the fire alarm went off. He did not line up as the other kids did. You may want to have his ears checked.” This opening statement to me came from my son’s preschool Director. “Check his ears?” I thought. His hearing is fine. Hearing her, not listening. Her voice did not communicate concern AT ALL. It was more like – “This is a problem. Please fix it because this is annoying & disruptive.” She further comments on his crying and she commences to instruct me on how my husband and I could better raise our son. That’s where I get off the bus. I had pretty much tuned her out after she suggested I get Callie’s ears checked. Her care-less attitude for my son and over-the-top arrogance had me wanting to remove myself from her very presence. I probably would have had an open mind, but her approach was way off. “How is he at home?” “Have you seen him behave in this manner before?” “What are your thoughts?” None of these questions were asked or any that resembled them. I barely had time to breathe with all my child’s “lack of paying attention and crying” coming at us. This conversation was more of a monologue than a dialogue. I wanted to tell this woman, “You don’t know my child.” Hearing, but not listening. But then, I thought, “Do I know my child?” I made an appointment with the ENT but not for Callie per say. I just wanted to prove this lady wrong. The ENT said “Your son needs tubes. It’s like he’s hearing under water.” A week later, Callie has tubes, which was more detrimental to me than to him. The doctor said that Callie would be talking in 2 -3 weeks. And yes, that was another complaint from the mean old lady. But this complaint I was well aware of and it was a major worry. I just didn’t want to tell her that. I didn’t want her to be right. Plus I was clueless on how to get that corrected, and furthermore I did not know the cause. It all made sense during our consultation with the ENT. Can’t hear well……won’t speak well. A month passed. Callie was not talking and I felt the ENT needed to lose his license. Callie was 2 and he hadn’t said Mom, Bye, Hi or any of the initial words that toddlers start to say. The Director with her bright ideas told us that we may want to consider speech therapy. Early Childhood Intervention, a statewide program is something that she suggested and said that these services could be given to Callie at the school. This bright idea of hers, we took her up on. ECI is a statewide program for families with children (3 and under) with disabilities and developmental delays. They help children reach their potential through developmental services. For a few months, Callie received services. But then, my husband was blessed with a job offer and we were relocating to Dallas. I was happy but terrified. I was leaving a good job that I adored. But more importantly, Callie was getting services he so needed and it was free…..and that would be gone. Our financial state was not all that appealing, so the job offer could not have come at a better time. Still the comfort of help was what I longed to keep. The services were ok. At the time, I was thankful for any help given and the fact that no out of pocket was necessary made this a superb deal. But the services only magnified the truth in front of me. Something wasn’t connecting with my son. I could feel it but had no hint of what that something was. It was a couple of weeks before we would be packing up to leave that Callie’s new ECI worker mentioned autism. She had been working with him on his ABC’s, numbers, colors, shapes – using bright colors and toys. At the end of the session, she says she thinks Callie is autistic. At the time, I thought she meant talented in art but I knew that couldn’t be right because Callie doesn’t like to draw, color or paint – even to this day. I didn’t let on that I didn’t know what in the world she was talking about. I just looked at her with amazement because it didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it could not be all that good. Besides, she wasn’t smiling. She looked genuinely concerned. She said she’s been studying autism for a long time and Callie showed signs of it. I thanked her as I always did at the end of a session. I put Callie in the car and drove home feeling sick. I heard her and this time, I listened.

I think most parents know when something is not right with their child. Whether we hearken to it or not, that does not negate the fact that something is there. The mean old lady as I used to call her (in mind only) probably did not realize what role she would play on my son’s journey. At the time, I didn’t either, but at some point during our conversations, her words rang loud… and clicked. Yes, I was angered by them. Hurt by them. And even though her expression of speech was not all that heartfelt, these were concerns that needed to be addressed and heeded to. If the teachers had not complained and the Director herself had not observed, I may have succumbed to my thoughts of maybe Callie is ok and dismissed my heart and gut altogether….at least for a little while. I’ve learned though that my emotions can influence my true inner feelings and decision making. Emotions are going to come forth whether I want them to or not and I do take note, but sometimes….just sometimes, they may have to be silenced and take a back seat to something more important.

Thanks for listening,

Portia

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