When I think about how we have learned things about autism I have to give my wife most of the credit. She asks the most pointed, detail oriented and reference specific questions I’ve ever heard. However, her questions always get us into discussions that give us more information. I learned a lot about asking questions just by listening to her, and I want to pass some of that along to you.

I was never the type to question doctors. I always assumed, like most people, that since they went to medical school they had all the answers. Even though, intellectually, I knew there were specialists and the human body is so complex nobody could know everything, I kind of took that on faith. All that changed when Raymond was diagnosed.

As many autism parents know, most doctors will tell you that there is no positive outcome for a child with autism. They look at you like they feel sorry for you, mumble something about speech therapy and occupational therapy, pat you on the back and send you on your way. That seems to be changing, but its not changing fast.

Anyone who knows me or my wife will tell you that if we don’t get the answer we want we start digging. At that point my wife started digging into our doctors. With the skill of an interrogator she put doctors on the spot and kept coming back to the question until they either answered it to her satisfaction of threw up their hands in alarm. That’s when I realized that doctors don’t know everything.

Don’t get me wrong. I treat all doctors with respect, as every one has undergone a tremendous amount of education and training just to get the title of doctor. We are good friends with several doctors and I hold them in the highest esteem. However, they are people and, as such, can make mistakes. They also cannot contain all the information on every diagnosis, every specialty and every drug. That’s why there are so many specialty doctors and clinics.

So if something doesn’t make sense to you, ask for clarification. That’s the starting point. Be humble, but be firm. If the second answer doesn’t make sense to you, ask again. Keep asking, and keep questioning. For example, when we went to Georgetown for our diagnosis we asked the neurologist a ton of questions. Instead of becoming offended, he fed us studies and other information for us to research on our own. That really opened my eyes. When you can find a doctor who wants to be part of your team it is a wonderful thing.

The same is true at school. Again, I’m not an educator, but I know my kid. If you tell me that you are doing an intervention that I have seen fail at home, I’m going to ask you why. I will also want some evidence that it works for other kids. Too often schools fall into institutional patterns that are disconnected from the kids. That’s the education battle IMO. Question everything, especially at the IEP table. That’s when the team should be solving problems, but unless you ask the right questions they may not see the problems through the right lens.

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