I started my daughter in counseling this summer due to her anti-social and sometimes weird tendencies. We wanted to know if she has Asperger’s (or falls somewhere else on the autism scale) or if she is simply sits outside the (often ridiculous) social norms.

And because everyone needs counseling at least once in their lives.

After the maximum number of sessions the insurance would pay for, of course, the conclusion was that she’s introverted, anti-social, prefers to be alone, and her communication skills are crap. Thank you. That’s very informative because I wasn’t paying attention to her behavior at all and had no reason to bring her in to begin with.

Not that introversion is bad, but any helpful plan of action to assist her with better socialization skills by chance? The answer was “Blah, blah… get into social groups… not really.” They basically said to do the same as anyone would with anything in life: Get out there and do it and then practice it.

They did agree that some of her other symptoms, i.e. quirks, may be autistic and she should undergo further testing. Thank you again. Wait… wasn’t that part of what we were doing? Nope, apparently not. The referral to the “medical” side took two months and she finally underwent an official evaluation last week.

She was nervous (and so was I) leading up to the day of the evaluation. We hadn’t been given any clue what the testing would be like, only that it would take a full day. In retrospect, that should’ve been a clue. What kind of place holds people with communication issues or attention span deficits (or whatever else) hostage for an entire day of testing?

We entered the small house that had been converted into a downtown office and, like most small downtown converted offices, it was eerily quiet. There was the usual furniture and a creepy wooden doll house in the corner with bland wooden furniture and voodoo looking stick dolls. We obediently read the taped paper signs and the older plastic signs written in faded milk. Get your insurance card out. Sign in here. Turn off your phone. Pay for everything before you sit down. Don’t disturb our eerie quiet or GOBLINS WILL COME FROM BEHIND THIS PLEXIGLASS AND POKE YOUR EYES OUT.

We were early and a women in scrubs was sweeping the floor. She poked her head around and asked for a name. She stared at us for a moment as if we had lied. Also in retrospect, I’m pretty sure that was the first test question. DO YOU KNOW YOUR OWN NAME, YES OR NO?

I offered that my daughter was here for Asperger’s testing and was quickly corrected. “That’s not what we do here. We do neurological psychological exams.”

Right. Wonderful clarification. I feel SO much better knowing I’m leaving my kid to be psychologically poked and prodded all day in her neuro region by strangers.

They put the lunch she had brought in their fridge and explained some basic intake paperwork. I asked for the whatever-it’s-called form that would allow me to get results and communicate directly with the office, but they said they don’t do that. Excuse me? They don’t do that? They obviously don’t work with too many adults with disabilities then? Not encouraging, fancy neuro-pscyhe office, not encouraging at all.

On the other hand, it’s good for my daughter to act her age and “practice” social skills whenever she can. The other upside is that I don’t have to complete any boring paperwork anymore. “I can’t fill it out,” I tell her “because you’re eighteen now. It’s a legal thing.”

My daughter reminded me that it was fifteen minutes past her scheduled appointment time by pointing to her watch. One of her quirks is being on time. The doctor must have sensed this because they literally called her name as she was lowering her arm back down. They took her back for an initial interview and asked me to wait so they could tear me apart – interview me – next. No matter what anyone tells you, any doctor with a degree in “let’s see what’s in there” who is worth seeing will be able to dig around until you’re uncomfortable. I wasn’t disappointed.

I had to answer questions about my daughter’s behavior and tendencies, including some I had never thought of, such as, does she steal or lie or harm herself. Jesus! Does she? There was that one time she ate two pieces of candy and said she only ate one. I don’t really know where that turtle shell came from that’s on her shelf. Does she have any scars that maybe I’m not aware of? Ack! I don’t know! STOP PUTTING ME ON THE SPOT.

After more questioning about family history and current familial relationships, communicative abilities, and whether she likes to say tomAYto or tomAHto, I was feeling a bit frazzled and was glad when it sounded like we were wrapping up. That’s when they throw the really hard stuff at you, when your guard is own. “Great, Ms. Willmon. I think we have everything…. Oh, one last question: Do you want your daughter to live on her own?”

The doctor was older and not a millennial herself, so I knew that it was a serious question. I felt a mild panic and my first inclination was to scream “FIX HER RIGHT NOW!” but refrained since I would’ve come across as a heartless and selfish parent. And it may have gotten me my own appointment.  “Uh, yes. Yes, I do. I mean, after college, not TODAY or anything,” was what spilled out instead.

I didn’t realize deciding when or if my daughter would move out was a group decision any more than it would’ve occurred to me that someone would think my daughter and I need to co-habitat for the rest of our lives. What I should’ve said was that I don’t think an inability to make small talk or always know when people are joking or an unusual interest in horror or wanting to wear a baseball cap and tennis shoes daily is grounds for living with your parents forever.

And I hope my son doesn’t get wind of this idea.

I walked back into the waiting room that was now full of people with the doctor on my heels. I was in a bit of a haze. My daughter had already been taken back for the ink blots or whatever was next. I suddenly felt guilty because there was a small part of me that was glad I was free to go. This was made worse by the doctor asking on my way out if I had any “big plans for the day.” This is why small-talk is stupid and I’m against it.

I sat in my car for a few minutes and thought about running back in to unstrap her from the table and remove all the probes that I was convinced she was attached to. The desert heat told me to make my decision or suffocate and melt. I drove away a little frayed. I think that’s what these types of offices are required to do with anyone who walks in, so they were off to a good start for today. Kudos.

I sat at home and failed to write, read or concentrate on anything important in general. Television it was. I finally got the call to come back six hours later. I waited anxiously in the reception area and stared at the doll house, skeptical it was there solely for children’s entertainment. My daughter came out with her lunchbox as if she had been at grade school. I was handed a thick set of paperwork in a manila envelope to fill out and mail back. I glanced at the questions. More of the same, except worse. And in ink. These answers would be in my handwriting, on permanent record in my daughter’s medical file. I nodded that I understood.

My daughter isn’t forthcoming with the communication – did I mention that? The car door couldn’t slam fast enough for me so that I could nonchalantly ask the very parental “How was your day?” as if I really was picking her up from school.

She gushed about speaking with people, computer tests, doing math and Algebra, vocabulary, reading comprehension, drawing shapes after seeing them once, logical sequencing of items and “Oh, and there were some long boring questions to answer on paper.”

She enjoyed it. She enjoyed it? She is weird.

I was relieved, of course. I asked her if she was tired, which is usually code for “leave me alone I need to shut down.” She said she was tired, but because she had been prepared, she was doing okay. And she was. She had a college class that evening and it looked like she would be good to go for that too. “Can we get a burger before I go to class?”

You bet we can. She was apparently getting better equipped at handling interactions by practicing. Huh.

We won’t know the results until sometime in mid-October. Meanwhile, I answered questions in detail about my daughter’s personality and behaviors as best I could and returned them in the manila envelope to be added to the mountain of paperwork that will decide how – and whether – she’s on the social outskirts.

It’s comforting to know that the testing is done and that the next time I see a creepy wooden house with voodoo dolls it will mean that we’re (hopefully) done with diagnosing and can move on to, uh, whatever is next. Probably more practicing.

Doll House