Am currently having a lull in clinic.
Just saw a sweet 17 year old kid with autism who needed assessment for fitness for operation.
He was rather skinny and frail-looking for his age but a sweet kid nonetheless. Rather shyish [kinda expected], and a little clingy to his mother, he was otherwise rather well-behaved and tolerated my questioning [to some degree] and examination without much complaint.
He had an occasional tic of sorts. He would suddenly have rather rapid attention shifts that literally involved his entire person – he’d almost spasm, have a rather abrupt posture change, and then he’d do something else, like hug his mother, or stare at my computer screen, or attempt to lie down on his chair.
And for some funny reason, I felt a fair amount of heartache as I watched his mother shepherd him out the door, a long-suffering but still concerned and loving look on her face.
Autism is, after all, a variable brain development disorder with a HUGE spectrum ranging from almost normal to pathological, and here’s a kid that just missed out on normal.
He could have been any one of us. After all, autism’s classical symptom triad includes impairments in social interaction, impairments in communication and restricted interests with repetitive behaviour, things which all of us experience to some degree, especially in our formative years when we first started interacting with the world outside our homes. Some of us learned well, others… not so well.
There was a time when I suspected retrospectively whether I had Asperger syndrome when I looked back on my school days, which is basically a variant of high functioning autism. Heck, there are times when I still wonder if I have it given that my social interactive skills are rather lacking at times, and my focus on some limited things can be, according to some people, rather scary [they quote my fast clearance of anime and drama serials. I wonder why. They do the same thing anyway.]
Still. There’ s a reason I decided never to take up paediatrics. I found really early on that when I looked at kids and teens with syndromes that I tend to get a little too emotionally labile. I can rationalize adults and the elderly fine. They’ve already had their chance at life.
But when I see really really sick kids…
There’s nothing quite as heart wrenching as seeing wasted potential like this.