Tell Me Where It Hurts

Raising a child with autism has its challenges for sure, but the one that hurts my heart the most is when Maggie is hurt or upset and I’m not able to understand exactly what is wrong or how to help.  It must be so frustrating for her.  And it’s bad enough to be hurt or upset, but to layer communication complications on top of that…well, that just sucks.  Sometimes when she is upset language seems to come very easily for her.  She only asks us questions or tells us information when it is motivating to her to do so.  Not being able to find her lalaloopsy dolls, or being trapped in a shirt that has one drop of water on it, well these are some pretty strong motivators.  It’s not unusual to have her come running up to us, make eye contact better than a tax auditor who’s trying to break an embezzler, and emphatically shout “Where are my lalaloopsy dolls?”

But other times we’re not so lucky, and we have to play charades/detective/mind reader.

Last week Maggie took her popsicle out to the backyard to play while I was working in the living room at the front of the house.  Our yard is fully fenced with locked gates, and we don’t usually need to worry about what she is doing out there.  The bunnies that she likes to chase need to worry, but we don’t.  The patio door was open so I can hear her happy little noises she makes.  A couple of minutes after she went out, she came back inside, whining and muttering, and I heard the freezer door open.  She sounded annoyed, and I figured that she must have dropped her popsicle and was getting another one.  A few minutes later I hear her go back outside again.  After a little while I went out to the kitchen and found an ice pack on the table.  That’s when I realized that the whining must have been from a bump or scrape, and not her popsicle.  I looked out and saw that two of the bricks around our garden had been flipped over.  One of her favourite activities is to walk along the edge of the bricks like it is a balance beam, so I figured she must have stood too much on the edge of them and flipped them.  It still seemed like no big deal.  I checked her out and saw she had a cut on the front of her ankle, right where it bends.  She wouldn’t put the foot flat on the ground because that makes the part right where the cut was bend and probably hurt.  It made sense.  A boo boo for sure, but nothing a little polysporin and a Dora bandaid couldn’t fix right up.

Until the next morning when she came out of her room hopping on one foot.  And her foot seemed like it was at a bit of a funny angle.

We asked her lots of questions about where it hurt, and if she needed to go to the doctor.  We got either no answer, or a reciting of the entire Caillou episode when Leo breaks his ankle and has to go to the hospital.  Then she asked for the hospital and the doctor bed.

We decided to get it checked out, and headed to the local children’s hospital.  We were feeling a bit unsure about how we would be received at the hospital, because we were still pretty sure it was just a cut.  She never screamed or cried when it happened.  She didn’t even wince when anyone pressed around the area.  And she loves hospitals ever since she went to one in an ambulance.  We were sure this was just an expensive field trip.

Luckily the staff at McMaster Children’s Hospital were nothing short of amazing.  Often when we take Maggie to appointments and tell the professionals that she has autism they don’t get it at all.  They smile and nod and assure me that I don’t need to worry, and then proceed to ask me why she isn’t sitting still or won’t answer their questions.  But at Mac they put it in her file, and each nurse and resident already seemed to know when they spoke to us.  They would ask if she minded a stranger touching her foot.  The x-ray technician knew as soon as I said ‘autism’ that one of us would need to stay with her and help.  The resident understood that she needed to take Maggie’s needs into consideration when making a recommendation rather than just giving blanket advice that would not be realistic.

I took Grace there when she broke her wrist, so I think they are just genuinely great at their jobs and excellent with all kids, but when you have a child with special needs theses things make even more of a difference.  The hospital was clean and bright and such a great environment for kids who are there under crappy circumstances.

In the end the x-ray showed that she has a crack only part-way through the ankle bone.  It only shows on one view, so she is in an aircast for a week, and then the fracture clinic will do another xray and figure out whether/how much it is broken.  Maggie has been so cooperative about wearing the cast – I was certain she would take it off after a few hours and I thought for sure we would have to duct tape her into it.  It’s keeping her off the trampoline that seems to be the real problem!

I’m grateful that Maggie was able to communicate her needs to us, even if it took awhile; that she has a high pain tolerance so she is not suffering; and for excellent medical care that is readily available.

I’m also grateful that she didn’t drop the popsicle they gave her on the way out.

maggie wheelchair


  1. Jan says

    Switch the name Maggie to Max and you’ve just described something that happened to my guy a couple of years ago. Hope that Maggie is on her way to full recovery and that mom and dad recover from the ordeal soon too… Or another ordeal presents itself to distract you from worrying too much about this one.

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