Sep 29, 2014

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Autism: The Path You Never Expect

Autism: The Path You Never Expect

Awhile back, I wrote a post about autism, about the fear and stigma, and how the stigma sometimes interferes with people interacting and associating with people and parents of children on the spectrum. I spoke about stereotypes and misrepresentations in the media. Misconceptions and ignorance.

I’ve also spoken about my own son’s journey. From being delayed, to being assessed, to now, where I speak of his diagnosis.

When we first started this journey, I knew what the result would be, at least, somewhere deep in my mind. I’ve done enough schooling to identify delays, and I have enough friends on the spectrum, and friends who are parents of children on the spectrum, to have them identify things to me. In the end, however, I still held hope that they were wrong, that my optimistic friends who stood by the “people are too quick to diagnose” and “he’s a smart boy, he’s just developing at his own pace” were right.

But the signs kept compounding, and when I had him evaluated at home, it was obvious that he was delayed. He, however, was in a stressful environment, cramped quarters that inhibited his development slightly. So I waited for us to move and waited to see if he progressed by leaps and bounds once the move happened and the stress was lifted.

He didn’t. Sure, he made a lot of progress, but it was at a steady pace, and only in some areas, where others he remained stagnant. So his service coordinator suggested it was time for a full team evaluation. This was after my ex called and requested an in home evaluation of his own, because he did not believe anything I said was accurate for my son’s visits at his home(which is easily explained by the “novelty” of the once a week visits and the excitement of him seeing his father for the 20 hours a week he gets to).

However, when the evaluation was going on, our son acted normal(for him). Everything he did we both said was normal behavior. The difference lay only in our interpretation of the evidence in front of us. I saw the behavior through the eyes of a Social Work student. He saw it through the eyes of a loving parent who did not want anything to be wrong with his child.

I understand and respect his denial. It is a part of the process. I was in denial at first, speaking only of his strengths, and pushing aside my internal concerns about his weaknesses. I processed faster due to my schooling, something my ex, unfortunately, does not have as a resource to draw upon.

In the end, the evaluation went smoothly, but resulted in a diagnosis that was both expected, but undesired.

After all the doctors, therapists and evaluators(which included a psychologist, a speech/eating therapist, an occupational therapist, his service coordinator and a couple of other specialists I do not remember at the moment) finished the evaluation and consulted with each other, they spoke to me and my ex. They highlighted his strengths and his advanced areas(number and letter recognition) and his weak areas(self/reflection recognition, expressive language, transitional anxiety and eye contact). They also spoke of red flags, such as his obsession with wheels and things that spin, his tendency to focus so much he appears deaf when you call to him, and his need to self-stimulate.

They said they were confident in his diagnosis.

My son is autistic.

The gave us both packets of information on local resources, spoke of the steps to take from the day of the diagnosis, and suggestions to really help him go forward and advance. Some of these things are going to be difficult for us to process and handle, and some will be very easy. But it is a journey.

So many people talk of their paths in life, the journeys they take. We really are on a path, one that twists and turns, that merges with others, and goes away on its own. But life also has a way of sending us a 90 degree turn when you expect a straight road.

Autism is Our Path

It is, however, not a small road. It is wide and well traveled, and companions have joined me. I’m walking side by side with thousands of newly diagnosed children, newly bombarded parents. I walk with therapists and doctors cheering me on, thousands of blogs and websites, books and pamphlets on the sidelines, helping me take each step.

The road is a long one. The pace is slow and steady. But it is going to be okay, with support and faith, I will get through this. He will get through this. We will get through this.

There is no cure, but there IS hope.

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