This was my fourth visit to the doctor’s office in a month, and it still smelled like hand sanitizer and sweat. As I followed my mom to that room, 309, I wondered, “What could be so important to Mom that she had to pull me out of school again? She NEVER does that!” I reached room 309, and pulled myself up onto the examining table. Mirrors were behind me, and in front of me was a stand filled with books meant to be read to toddlers. Minutes passed, and my 9-year-old mind began to wander from the room. After several more minutes of desperation, I picked up “The Hungry Caterpillar.” The doctor had still not arrived. How was my mom being so patient? After what felt like hours, Dr. Carter finally made an appearance.
“Hello,” she said in a voice that sounded like a thousand ringing bells. “My name is Doctor Carter. Is this Alyssa?” she asked my mom, while gesturing to me.
“I’m Alyssa,” I piped up. Doctor Carter flashed a blinding smile and looked me in the eye.
“How are you, Alyssa?” she wondered.
“Fine,” I replied, avoiding her gaze.
“Are you missing school?”
“Why is that?”
Then, “Alyssa, will you step into the next room with Nurse Katrina? I need to talk to your mommy.”
Katrina and I slipped away, and I gave my mom one last glance before the door closed. Katrina and I walked into the room to the left, I sat down on a green pillow, and she sat across from me. She showed me some shapes, and asked me to name them. I did. She told me to say what colors the shapes were. I did. Next, she pulled out some flashcards from her pocket. The flashcards had words on them. She asked me to spell them; I couldn’t. I have never been a very good speller. With a blank face, she wrote something down. It was 10:48, and until 11:04, we sat there quietly, having an unofficial staring contest. Soon, Katrina was interrupted by a loud noise coming from her pocket. It was from Dr. Carter, who apparently couldn’t be bothered to walk into the next room to tell us that it was time to walk back to her office. We did so with haste; I was urgent to see my mom. I settled down on Mommy’s lap, and she grunted with the impact of my bottom on her bladder. Then my dad, Dave, walked in. “Daddy!” I squealed jubilantly. I hopped off Mommy’s lap and moved to Daddy’s. He gave me a big hug, and I was wrapped in the smell of his office mixed with his deodorant.
Doctor Carter cleared her throat. I hushed up, as she continued. “Mr. and Mrs. Knudsen. I have some news to share with you that may be hard to hear.” Mommy was on the edge of her seat. “After running several tests and observing Alyssa, I have come to the conclusion that she indeed has a diagnosis.”
“What is it?” Mommy said, almost silently.
“I believe that Alyssa’s proper diagnosis is high-functioning Asperger’s. Here,” she said, as she handed my mom a book which appeared to be on the subject of a spectrum. My mom scanned the book, her eyes moving so quickly that her pupils were blurred.
After maybe 10 minutes of Mommy, Daddy, and the doctor discussing Asperger’s, I was zoning off into space. It was decided that Daddy would drive me home, and Mommy would stay downtown for an orientation about Asperger’s. I gave Mommy a kiss, shot the doctor a dirty look, and exited the office with one hand holding Daddy’s, the other occupied by my stuffed bear, which I had been nervously clutching the entire time.
I was 9 when that happened, and everything up until then had been a struggle. I had no friends, and I had lots of trouble getting along with my teachers and classmates. Luckily, I had a great family who helped me through all of this. After seeing Dr. Carter, my life changed drastically. In third grade, I met my equal. Siena has always been there for me through all the rough patches that I have had, and loves me for them. I started seeing a new therapist; after three years of hard work, I only have to see her once a month!
As I wrap up this narrative, I think about how family and friends helped me, and I hope that this story will inspire you to help others who have struggled even more than I have—even if that person is you. So, my challenge to you is to make a special effort to make people (even yourself) who are different feel normal. I won’t lie: it takes a lot of hard work to feel comfortable in your own skin, and I’m getting there in mine. My diagnosis and support set me on the right path. How about you?
Alyssa Knudsen is a 6th grader at Oregon Episcopal School who loves reading and spending time with family and her pets; it remains unknown if she loves reading or the pets more.