dear doctor


Those who have knowledge don’t predict. Those who predict don’t have knowledge.

~ Lao Tzu

Dear Doctor,

Hi there. Remember me? Two and a half years ago, you sat down with a terrified young family and answered a question that you had no right to answer.

You told a reeling couple that their newly diagnosed, as yet untreated three year old would likely live a solitary life. Does this ring a bell, doctor? The day that, after spending all of an hour and a half with our beautiful little girl, you somehow decided that you had the right to tell us that she would likely CHOOSE to spend her life alone?

Well, doctor,  we knew you were wrong. We knew our daughter.  We were stronger than your words. We were stronger than your white lab coat and your Harvard degree. We were almost as strong as our little girl is turning out to be.

Doctor, I’d like to introduce you to that little girl just two and a half years later. Let’s take a walk through her recent party, shall we?

Join me, doctor. This is going to be fun …

The first guest arrived. Brooke used her long-practiced and well honed opening lines. (You see, doctor we never gave up on playdate after playdate.)

“Want to go to my room? I’ll show you all my toys.”

They headed up the stairs together and went straight into her room. They stood there somewhat awkwardly for a moment, neither of them quite sure what to do next.

Then Brooke apparently found her muse.  “We would jump on the bed, she told her little friend. And so they did. Without so much as another word, they jumped. Happy as little monkeys.


The rest of the guests arrived and made their way up to Brooke’s room to join the fun. Since there obviously wasn’t going to be room for all five of them on the bed, I suggested they play Ring Around the Rosy, one of Brooke’s favorites. And ring the rosy they did.


And did.


And did.


When the ringing and the rosying finally petered out, I suggested that we head downstairs. We had about fifteen minutes to kill before it would be time for the animal show. My thought had been to play this wonderful song that Brooke knows from her movement class. I thought it would get the kids dancing. Unbeknownst to me, little Miss Brooke apparently had her own thought.

I stopped in the kitchen just long enough to greet a mom that I hadn’t seen yet and then turned back around to find the girls half way through the door to the basement playroom. “C’mon, girls,” I said encouragingly, “Let’s go into the den and we’ll listen to some fun music.”

“No, we would go downstairs to the play room,” said the little hostess. I noticed that she was holding one little girl’s hand. They were all waiting for their direction. Not from me. From Brooke.

I’ve never been so happy to have my plans overridden.  They didn’t need the orchestration.  They were just fine. Together. Playing. So off they went into the basement.

They found their way into the  bubbles.


And big sister indulged them all.


There were silly faces. 


And lost teeth (well, one lost tooth and one completely fabricated but socially appropriate  ‘me too!’)


There was stilt walking and ball bouncing and even an impromptu marching band. All in the space of fifteen minutes.   


And oh, yes .. animals! Fluffy the chinchilla. 


Burt the tree frog. Or is that Ernie?


A corn snake, best observed from a safe distance.


Al the alligator.


And even one really, really big snake.



The party was wonderful. Brooke was ENGAGED. Bold faced capital letters ENGAGED. She was THERE. But the real magic was yet to happen, doctor.

The kids said their good-byes and headed out. The snakes and scorpions and crawly critters were all blissfully back in their cages and on their way home. The frog pee was cleaned off the kitchen floor.

We immediately uploaded the photos so that I could work on creating a thank you album for the grandparents who so generously made this amazing experience happen. I started sorting and cropping and editing and moving pictures from one file to another. And this one came up …



And Brooke looked at it. She pointed to it. And then she said, “We’re best friends.”

So, doctor? With all due respect, I think my daughter just told you to take your prognosis and shove it.


A very, very proud Mom

26 thoughts on “dear doctor

  1. i tell you, it’s all about defiance. that little one of yours is filled with it and it’s quite wonderful. you should go back to the doctor, request more barriers, so that she can break those down as well.

    so…defiance. it’s kind of impossible to exaggerate it’s importance, that’s really what’s at the core of what we’re doing.

    brooke, for example…i’ve heard a rumor that she can fly.

  2. Oh, Jess! Oh, Brooke!

    What a party!

    PS –
    Dear Dr. –
    I’m not as nice as Jess.
    From this moment forward, we demand that you banish all negative words from your diagnostic process, including solitary, lonely, anti-social and NEVER. If not, we will come after you. And trust me, Dr., you don’t wanna mess with any of us. Not even on a good day.

  3. Shove it indeed! We’ve been to 2 of those “doctors” we are currently searching for another doctor. I thought part of the Hippocratic oath was Do no harm. Brooke you and your mommy are an inspiration!

  4. That felt good, didn’t it? We had one of those doctors. His solution was “let’s talk about medication. W/o it, your son will be a total failure.” Ugh.

    Sending big hugs and smiles for what was clearly, the best day ever. A very, very proud mom, indeed.

  5. Fabulous party! Love it! And awesome letter to a jerk of a doctor!! Reading this makes me realize that not getting a diagnosis at age 2 was probably a good thing – I didn’t have to hear anyone tell me that ridiculous line of crap that doctors are so famous for!

    You keep showin’ ’em, Brooke!!

  6. I try to keep up to date on your writings – I enjoy them so much. This is wonderful!

    hope you & luau are doing well too! xo

  7. Oh, I think we’ve met that doctor, too! Several times, in fact.
    I wonder, if these doctors got to hear the impact of their dire predictions —especially on families that aren’t as strong as some others —if they actually had to deal with the emotional fallout, would they change? I’d like to think so but then, I’, kind of naive that way.

    Even without any words, these pictures tell such a beautiful story about a lovely little girl and her FRIENDS. Seriously, if you’d just posted these pics on a Wordless Wed and some stranger stumbled across them, they’d likely think “Oh, that’s nice; some kid’s birthday party.” They would miss the enormity and incredible, hopeful beauty of the occasion.

    Hope, Jess. You bring hope. And belief. xo

  8. Please, please please send this to that idiot of a doctor on behalf of Brooke and every other child who might have to face this kind of unfounded prognosis. This particular doctor and any other like her have no right not to know.

  9. Cheering over here!!! That last photo is adorable and even more precious is that caption, “We’re best friends.” WOW.

    Can I borrow Brooke’s pants?

  10. Thankfully, I have never met that doctor, but I can relate to sooo many elements in this story. There is one that struck such a note that I just had to leave a comment.

    It was about 4 years ago, which would have made my PDD/NOS-diagnosed son 4 at the time. We were visiting family, with cousins my son’s age. Everything about the visit was painful. My son kept to himself, barely interacted with his cousins, slept horribly and woke up the entire house at the crack of dawn every morning. I was depressed and miserable.

    We needed to run some errands. My brother suggested we take all the kids. I cringed, knowing that behavior was going to be a problem, but agreed. We went into the store, and while I was talking to a salesperson, I looked up to see my son, without being prompted, engaged in a full volume game of “ring around the rosy” with his cousins … a game that HE started!

    My brother didn’t recognize this moment as being significant — why would he? I started to tear up. I told him it was one of the happiest moments of my life. He later told me it was the first time he realized just how difficult a challenge we were facing.

  11. I have been lurking for a while and have delurked to say – I hope you have really sent this letter to the doctor. I don’t have an autistic child but I do work in a school that has a little girl (age 6) who has this condition. I was searching the web to find out more and came across all the blogs that seem to link with each other and you are all an inspiration. You have made sure I make no assumptions about an autistic child and have changed how I approach “our” child (we are very protective of her!).

    You and your family rock!!

  12. Your post made me cry. My PDD-NOS 3.5 year old son and I just went through a really rough week, but his obvious desire to make friends and play with peers helps me make it through the toughest rigid or anxiety-filled days. Go, Brooke, go!

  13. Anna,

    Thank you so much for what you are doing. It is people like you who make all the difference to our kids. Compassion, tolerance, love. Thank you!


    My heart is bursting .. we had a similar moment on a trip to Maine last summer. B found a little girl on the town green and well, the rosy was ringing .. it was pure magic. And the fact that your brother saw how much it meant, well, there’s so much to be said for that kind of understanding and support. It can be hard won with words.


    I should have mentioned that the good doctor is – thank God – no longer practicing in a clinical setting. She is still alive and kicking (perhaps only cause Pixie never got to her) but now safely ensconced in a research lab. Blissfully, it seems that she’s retired the crystal ball for a while, or at the very least put it to far better use.

    This is exactly why I was so pleased to have the opportunity to lecture at MIT. Those are the people we all need to be talking to – the next generation of neuropsychs. They are the ones that WE need to educate.

    No, no one but no one has the right to extinguish hope. But stories like these show the folly in it, don’t they?

    Share them, shout them from the rooftops, expose the absurdity of prognostication. If not for ourselves, then for those who are new to the village. Those who are stumbling their way through the darkness of diagnosis, fumbling for answers. Those who may not have built up their rhino skin yet.

    And yeah, if you ever see her walking along the street, well, have at her.

  14. I lost it at the first picture.
    Now my eyes are puffy and red and I can’t write my narrative budget (whatever the heck that is…) and my eyes can’t stop leaking…
    there is something in this post that just gets to that place, inside, you know, where the divine in yourself is amazed and touched and so grateful and awed and inspired by the divine in another?
    yeah, that B, she is Divine and Hope all over the place.

  15. What a great milestone! It’s hard to be such a strong woman and say you will NOT define my child with a diagnosis. But when you do….amazing thinsg happen! Congratulations. 🙂

  16. This made me cry. Literally. As a mom to a child learning to overcome similar challenges I can only imagine how high that day made your heart soar, and mine soar right along with it.

    My daughter (age 5) had her most successful playdate ever yesterday. She was present, she was engaged, they played puzzles, had a dance party, and then they put on pretend makeup, dressed up “for the ball” and then Maya, my Maya, suggested turning her room into “fairyland” – complete with decorations and props. And then she made up a fairy story and “read” it from a pretend book. My Maya, the one they said might never develop symbolic play, might never be interested in having a friend.

    So yes, I do understand what Brooke’s party meant to you and my heart is soaring right along with yours as I cheer Brooke on.

  17. Robin,

    That’s EXACTLY how we got here – one play date at a time. And I’ve got to tell you, we have yet to have one even close to that elaborate and imaginative.

    Maya, Brooke, all of these amazing kids – they shatter the myths, don’t they?

  18. What a glorious party, and a beautiful engaged girl — and a seriously excellent letter.

    I’m so glad that the doctor’s load o’ manure… fertilized your dreams for Brooke rather than choking them. With different parents, it could have so easily gone the other way.

    Good job, mama. Wonderful job.

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