(This originally ran on Eagle’s business website in Australia, but it was so good we wanted to share it with our wider audience.)
You all know about my son Tim, I talk about him a lot.
He is finally old enough to join Air Force cadets, something he’s wanted to do since he was nine. He went along to the sign-on night last week and brought home all the paperwork, including a medical he had to do. I tossed up taking him to our biomed doctor, but this needed to be done ASAP, and so I just made an appointment with our local GP.
After school yesterday, we rock up to this guy. He hasn’t seen Tim for years – because Tim is so freaking healthy from his diet and biomed that he doesn’t need a GP. So the last time this guy saw him was probably five or six years ago (when Tim had warts on his foot). And the whole experience reminded me of why I am so disillusioned with mainstream medicine.
Tim tested fine on all the physical stuff. The doctor got to the form and said he wasn’t sure he could tick the box that said he would be fit for all activities.
“Why?” I asked.
I told him that was one of the attractions of Cadets, that he would be getting extra physical development alongside the discipline and mateship.
And he said he had more reservations because he would have to tick a box to say Tim was fit to be away on camps where medical help was more than 30 minutes away.
I didn’t understand why that was a problem. Tim does not have epilepsy or asthma or any medical condition that means he needs to be close to medical attention. Surely if an activity was too physically challenging for him he’d get really tired and may have to rest – was that a reason not to sign the form?
And besides the fact, Mr Doctor, don’t forget he’s in mainstream school and he does every sport/PE/camp activity that the rest of his year level does. So why would there be any problem with him doing cadets alongside other 13-year-old boys?
He reluctantly signed it, but said he was adding notes to the report to say that Tim had ASD.
“Why?” I asked again. I had gone through the list of one thousand conditions the Cadets wanted to know about – and ASD was not one of them.
The doctor thought it was imperative they knew.
I told him I had already spoken to the guy in charge of Cadets about Tim, and they were fine. Nope, he wouldn’t be swayed, and he wrote on the form Tim had autism and would be able to participate in Cadets, BUT would require clear and unambiguous instructions in order to complete tasks.
WTF! This guy sees Tim for five minutes in five years – how can he even begin to know what he needs after spending literally minutes with him? Again I explain he is COMPLETELY MAINSTREAMED. He gets the same instructions to complete tasks as all the other kids in his year level.
I’m just wanting to get out of there with this bloody form signed so my boy can go do his thing. But the doctor thinks it would be a great idea to now tell Tim how hard Cadets is going to be for him, and he’s really going to find it a challenge. “But don’t worry Tim, people like you, well, sometimes they can surprise us.”
Tim was getting upset at this stage and asked me what did he mean by people like him? I just grabbed my beautiful boy, paid for the privilege of the appointment and gave thanks that I would hopefully not have to set foot in his office for another five years.
I think a whole lot of old, painful memories were stirred up by our visit. It took me right back to the times before diet and before school, when all the “experts” were so gung ho on telling me what Tim would never be able to do. It brought back all the doubts about his future. And I couldn’t get out of my head how differently Tim’s future would have been if I had stayed in the mainstream and been guided by people like this doctor whose expectations and ambitions for my child were so low.
I was awake most of the night playing this out in my head. I was pissed at myself that I let 15 minutes with this guy get to me so much. But then I was sad about how many kids who would never reach their true potential because professionals like him were guiding their development. And it made me really sad that even though Tim has come so far, worked so hard and overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles, he is still subject to a prejudice that his past and his diagnosis slaps on him (and no, I’m not going to get the label removed. If he needs support in the future I want him to be able to access it).
I guess it could have been worse. He could have asked me if Tim’s vaccinations were up to date.
The Eagle makes her home on the Gold Coast, Australia where she lives with her husband, teenage daughter and son who was diagnosed with autism 10 years ago. When she’s not working with other autism families to help them implement dietary and lifestyle transformations which changed her son’s life you’ll find her playing tennis, reading autism books, studying nutrition and drinking red wine. Her favourite pastime though is watching her amazing boy spread his wings and soar to new heights.