We’re rapidly approaching the first anniversary of my Little Mate’s diagnosis. Before autism was a part of my family, I didn’t understand why anyone would remember the date of an appointment like that. Now I know that it is burned into my memory along with my reactions to it. It may sound overly dramatic, but it was a day that changed our lives forever.
There was a part of me that always knew something was amiss with our lad, but it wasn’t until he was two years old and still not speaking that we started to really think about it. As the third child it was easy to put his lack of verbal skills down to not needing to talk (his brother and sister did that for him) and we could find lots of reasons for other niggly issues as well.
I was convinced our son had hearing loss. That would be it! Grommets and he’d be right as rain. But the hearing tests came back perfectly normal.
In the space of a couple of months other behaviors began surfacing as well. Meltdowns, particularly during the night. He noticeably stopped making eye contact with other people. Where once he had coped fine in group situations, he was clingy and distressed. Where he had been keeping pace with his peers in many areas, suddenly he was so far behind them developmentally.
And so it began. The referral to a Paediatrician and from there a specialist psychologist.
The day of his assessment I expected to be told he was possibly at the extremely high functioning end of the spectrum. Possibly. Without even waiting to formalize the report, I was told that very day that he certainly had autism, and an intellectual disability as well. Any parent who has heard those words doesn’t need to be told how it affected me. I am so grateful my Mum was there with me. It was less of a shock to my husband who had suspected for a while, where I’d been in firm denial.
A year on my son’s autistic behaviours are far more obvious than they were then. Mostly I think because the gap between him and his peers has continued to widen so much, and because I now see them for what they are rather than looking for other reasons and a way to escape the truth.
In the past year I have been blessed to have amazing people to talk to about our journey. One of the reasons we created this space was in the hope that other parents need not feel alone when they hear those words. And the good news? My son is still my son. He is an amazing, gentle little soul. He has more words than he did and is better at conveying his needs both verbally and non verbally. It took me a long time to fully accept his diagnosis, and there are still days I catch myself thinking ‘when it gets better’. But the thing is it DOES get better. With understanding, with therapy, with so much love.
Whilst my boy will have autism for his whole life, he will also grow and develop and change and be loved.
What led you to seek a diagnosis? And what would you tell a parent with a newly diagnosed child?