Why you want a doctor on the Autism Spectrum.

I had a weird pain under my ribs. Everyone said it was gallbladder, and at one point, I was totally cool with them just yanking the sucker out. Fortunately my general practice doctor isn’t super into unnecessary surgery, so he sent me off to a GI doctor to see what was going on.  My GP told me that the guy he was sending me to was the best, “but…uh…his bedside manner….is…well…” I told him I didn’t care just as long as he FIXED ME.

The secretary warned me he was running late, which didn’t bother me a bit because sitting alone in a waiting room reading a magazine is actually quite dreamy. When it was my turn, the doctor didn’t shake my hand, didn’t look me in the face, didn’t apologize for being late.  He was wearing jeans and running shoes.  He went behind his desk and spent the next fifteen minutes telling me about his amazing voice recognition software and how it made it so he didn’t have to type because he could never really do it. And though he was excited about the software, everything word he said was in a  monotone almost-mumble. As the time ticked on, I could see how others would see his behavior as strange or unprofessional.  But the more he told me about the software, the more he was blatantly honest about my handwriting, my weight, my history, the more excited I got…

This guy is autistic!

I will be the first to admit that I see autism EVERYWHERE. I’m also no diagnostician, but as this GI spoke, my mind checked off all of the symptoms of ASD. I’m not saying he had it for sure, but he was every bit autistic as my son Casey.

And he was AWESOME at his job. I told him everything that was going on and he said, “No, that’s not gallbladder, it’s muscular, look!” Without asking me to follow, he strolled out of his office and into the exam room.  His exam was quick and thorough, as though I was a mannequin.  And he was right! It’s totally muscular. The significance of a specialist in one area telling me that the problem is not in his field of expertise is huge for me. I spent two and a half years in chronic pain before I found a doctor who would said, “this isn’t ovarian, this isn’t scar tissue, this is muscular.”  This guy did it the first visit.

And this is why you want an autistic doctor: because beside manners don’t mean a damn thing when you just want to be ‘fixed’. Because it doesn’t matter if he’s nice or if he tiptoes around your weight if he’s not going to listen to your symptoms and figure out what REALLY is going on with you. He’s not going to order tests you don’t need to cover his butt or perform surgery unless it’s absolutely necessary. Sure, you won’t leave the office feeling warm and fuzzy, but you will leave one step closer to having an answer for what is going on with you. And for me, that’s what I prefer.

On top of all of that, the doctor didn’t just give me some relief to the pain under my ribs, he gave me more hope in my son’s future. Casey’s social skills aren’t fantastic. But he’s terribly smart. He figures stuff out in a way that I can’t quite comprehend. As I watched this doctor go on and on about the voice recognition software as he excitedly strummed his fingers against the sides of his chair, I saw a grown up Casey sitting there.

Doctor Casey. Sounds cool, right? And now, doesn’t seem to far out of the realm of possibility.

24 thoughts on “Why you want a doctor on the Autism Spectrum.

  1. Great post. I agree, better competence than any other trait when looking for a doctor.
    I was, however, totally distracted by the instagram picture of Abby eating ramen noodles. IT WAS AWESOME!

  2. generalizing about autism good or bad, can be damaging to people with autism. how about instead of “this is why you want an autistic doctor” — “this is how autism traits can be advantageous in a medical setting.” (think, try substituting an ethnicity for autistic, maybe to see what I’m getting at)

    also, bedside matter is important for a reason. Maybe comments about your weight don’t bother you, but someone with an eating disorder (or who is teetering on he verge of one?!)?? that’s not ok.

    1. laura there’s some irony here that you feel the need to tell someone on their blog how to write with more ‘sensitivity, no?

      Aynway lex I get this, I had a similar experience with my kid’s paediatrician recently.

      1. I think the real irony is that I was saying bedside manner is important and doing it in a pretty rude way. I shouldn’t have done that. I personally don’t think sensitivity is ever a bad thing though. However,I could have used a little more of it myself. Sorry.

    2. I understand what you are saying about generalizations. It bothers me when people overuse the stereotype of people with Down syndrome always being happy. But for this post, I was okay with generalizing because I feel like there are few positive generalizations about autism. My writing style is concise. I choose my words with great care. I feel like rewording it the way you say here is talking semantics rather than getting to the point of this piece: This doctor probably is on the spectrum. This doctor was amazing. My son could be an amazing doctor even though he’s on the spectrum.

      And I’d hope that a doctor would discuss a weight issue with someone if it was going to be harmful to their health. That’s what doctors are for. If a doctor saying that someone is overweight is going to push someone into an eating disorder, it’s a safe bet that that person was going to have one anyways. It’s a doctors job to talk about medical issues with their patients.

      1. Will it annoy you if I “correct” your reply? I am feeling annoying today. “My son could be an amazing doctor *because* he is on the spectrum” instead of *even though*? He will have to have a few other strengths, of course. He already has a totally awesome mom though, so he is covered there.

      2. Sorry, I totally didn’t mean to sound bitchy, I think I left the comment too quickly and it came out wrong. I love your blog and have left really nice comments and emails in the past (surprisingly, none of those got a response from anyone, including you). Now I know how kids must feel when we ignore them until they bother us. I totally get what you are saying. And TOTALLY agree that there need to be more positive *associations* with autism. But positive associations (which are expansive/about potential) are different than generalizations (which are limiting). Like Kermommy said: This is why Casey could be a great doctor! Not in spite of his autism, because of it. And to expand on the bedside manner thing, I feel like you are implying that Casey couldn’t have bedside manner, and that is OK. I think neither of those are true. I think he could! I think it might look and feel different than some dr’s bedside manner (or lack thereof), but it is just as important. It is a false dilemma to say you can only have one or the other, zero sum game. Not to mention, it kind of screws over mental health care (hey, they were going to have problems anyway!) for whom that sort of sensitivity is so necessary. And given the fact that the GI tract has more neurotransmitters than the brain, and co-morbidity of mental health (especially EDs) and GI issues is huge; so that concerns me. I didn’t mean to imply you need to be more sensitive, but I also don’t know why that is such a four letter word around here. We are on the same time, you know? Anyway, I’m very sorry. I know it is hard to have stuff from your heart put out there where people think it is theirs to edit and critique.

      3. First off, I’m sorry I haven’t responded to your comments in the past. I suuuuuck at responding and doing so, unless it’s a controversial post, is something I just barely started doing (wordpress makes it easier to respond, too). Also, if you sent me an email and didn’t get a response back, I’m truly sorry. I really try to respond to all of my emails.

        I appreciate you voicing your opinion, and even when it differs from mine, I totally respect that you aren’t afraid to do it. My blog isn’t just about me stating my opinion and having everyone agree with me. That would be terrifically boring. Like I said in my last post, I’m learning. I’m trying to be better at the things that I am well aware that I suck at.

        I think a LOT about words. and cats, but that’s neither here nor there. So when writing,I choose my words to have an impact. There are times that I am not PC enough to some people. Ask any person in the Down syndrome community I offended because I said Abby IS Downs in a post, rather than just having it. In an effort to use the right words, I can see how some will take offense to them. I hope that is more a matter of differing opinion rather than me just being an asshole. It is NEVER my intent to to hurt with my posts, or even my comments. I’m sorry if you felt that way. I really am.

        I hope you stick around. I hope you continue to air your grievances if you have them. I think respectful dialog is awesome.

        For instance- my husband is a Republican and I’m a Democrat. We talk politics all of the damn time. But we don’t fight. We just see things differently, that’s all.

        Thank you for taking the time to respond. I’m sorry if you were hurt by anything that was said.

  3. I love this post sooooooooooo much, i can’t even do it justice!

    And personally, I prefer when doctors are straight with me. I want them to tell me when my weight is a problem. That’s their freaking job, right? If I want warm and fuzzy, I’ll talk to my hair dresser or my mom. I want someone to figure out what’s wrong with me. And I am so glad you have such a great doctor.

    And Laura, your analogy doesn’t work here. Autism cannot be substituted for a particular race. Ypur comparing apples to oranges, and frankly, I think you missed the entire point of this post. Anyone ever tell you that you’re a buzz kill? Cuz you are!

    1. I appreciate you standing up for Lexi, I didn’t mean to come across the way I did in my comment; and I’m sorry I made you feel the need to stand up for her; I should have been more thoguhtful. I just wanted to say that while I was disagreeing with points and ideas, you were calling me names. and that was hurtful.

  4. I want your doctor. For almost the same reason – I haven’t gotten around to figuring out what’s wrong with my gall bladder or ovaries or uterus or digestive system or whatever the heck is going on – your doctor sounds perfect. 🙂
    I also like that he took the time – I mean, yeah, not a super friendly in a warm fuzzy way – but he took the time needed. And that’s always a great quality in any person or doctor.

  5. A setting that allows you to look into the future with hope for your child is an amazing feeling. I just love this experience for what it did for you. 🙂

    Bedside manner means little to me in a doctor. Treat my kids respectfully but I want the truth, not a friend. I want to have my problems dealt with honestly and for them to solve whatever led me to their office to begin with. I’ve sat in one or two or 100 too many offices hearing far too many go on about what is, may be, can’t possibly, must be wrong with my kids or whomever to care about how they treat me personally. Just fix me or fix my kid, or it fixing isn’t possible at least do the best you can. I’m glad this dr took the time and used his focus to get to the real issue with you!

  6. My kids (both on the spectrum) have this awesome psychiatrist. He is on the spectrum. And it means that he is absolutely amazing. Not only does he understand what the hell is going on from a clinical perspective, he gets it from a personal one .He can help me bridge so many gaps. (He also has a great bedside manner, major plus!)

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