Years ago, when my husband and I were first trying to piece together the different aspects of our daughter’s developmental delays and emotional problems, a friend recommended we seek an assessment from my area’s Early Intervention department. We filled out the paperwork and scheduled the assessment, but in the back of our minds was a worry.
We both had grown up in a time when learning disabilities were poorly understood and kids who had them were usually educated in the LD classroom with the other “dumb” kids. …
I always knew there was something a little different about my daughter. Looking back, I can trace a line from the earliest age — when she was unwilling to be cared for by anyone besides me — to today, when despite all the growth she’s made over the years, she still struggles with a wide array of skills on both the academic and social sides of life.
Family members and friends shrugged off her idiosyncrasies. Kids are all different, they’d say. She’ll catch up. And, kind of, she did. It never failed: As soon as I called in an expert about one aspect of her development, she’d leap ahead in that domain and then begin to fall behind in another. …
Content warning: This story involves discussion of suicide in minors.
Over drinks one day, long before I had children, my friend casually mentioned some people he knew back home in England.
“Lost their daughter this weekend,” he said, shaking his head. “Suicide.”
“Oh, my God,” I said. “How old was she?”
“Twelve,” he responded gravely, and all the air left the room.
A family finished dinner. A twelve-year-old girl went upstairs. Her parents went up sometime later to tell her it was bedtime. And they found her.
I can’t even write those words without reliving the horror I felt for those parents that evening. But now, layered on top of it, is a near-paralyzing fear for my own children. Because if this happened to those people — that random couple across the world I’d never met — it could happen to anyone. …