Tzippora was just as cheery as the previous week. “Hi, Morah Suri! Here we are!” Her pocketbook swung from her arm as she bounced in, pulling Ezzie along with her.

I’m about to wipe that smile right off your face. The thought made Suri squirm in her seat.

Ezzie headed straight for the cars in the corner, without a glance at Suri.

She cleared her throat. “Ezzie, come sit over here.”

He didn’t even look up at his name.

“He can be stubborn,” Tzippora said with an indulgent smile. “He does what he wants, this kiddo. His playgroup teacher says the same… Oh, were you able to reach her?”

Last week, Suri had asked Suri’s permission to speak to Ezzie’s teacher. The conversation had only strengthened her suspicions. “I’ll play with Ezzie first and then we’ll talk at the end.”

Tzippora’s eyebrows shot up at Suri’s tone. “Oh! Uh, sure.”

Today’s session was no different than last week’s. Suri pulled out all the stops — puppets, bubbles, balloons, a veritable sound -

and-light show, but Ezzie just stared blankly at a spot on the purple wall behind Suri’s ear, not even cracking a smile. Tzippora’s eyes furrowed as she interjected a running mix of excuses and encouragement (“He went to sleep late last night.” “Ezzie, come on, look at the pretty bubbles!”).

After one last fruitless attempt, Suri sat back down opposite Tzippora. “His teacher told me that in playgroup he tends to play on his own, rather than with the other kids.”

Tzippora nodded. “She told me that, too. You think… maybe he has, I don’t know, ADHD? Should I get that checked?”

Suri clenched her hand hidden in her lap. She wished she had the stress ball Aviva’s husband left on the desk in the reception room.

“I think getting him checked out would be a good idea,” she said slowly.

Tzippora blinked. “Okay. If you say so. Where do I go to test for ADHD?”

Suri took a breath. Clench, unclench. “I didn’t say ADHD. But I think it’s a good idea to have him evaluated by a developmental pediatrician. Or a psychologist.”

Tzippora had already taken out her phone to type in the information. Now she paused, fingers suspended over the screen. “Not ADHD? You suspect something else?”

Her childlike eyes narrowed. “What?”

Suri kept her voice low, measured. “I’m not a doctor. I really can’t say. But I do see some signs that are worrying me a bit, and—”

“Signs? What signs?” Her voice rose higher.

Suri glanced at Ezzie, still planted in his corner with the cars. “The fact that he doesn’t seek out interaction with other people, children or adults, is worrying. That he doesn’t even seem to attend to what’s going on around him — as if he’s in his own world.”

Tzippora’s face was white. Suri couldn’t go on.

“Wait a second. That sounds like… are you talking about…” She closed her eyes and whispered, “Autism?”

The look on the young mother’s face made Suri want to cry. “I’m not saying anything. I’m not qualified to diagnose. I’m just saying… if it was my child, well, you should check it out.”

Tzippora didn’t even seem to hear her. “Autism. My gosh.” She looked over at her son, stunned.

She’s never going to see him the same way again. You’ve just ruined her life.