I’ll never forget the conversation we had with the Paedeatrician before our son’s autism diagnosis. She seemed quite wary about the process, pointing out that many parents don’t want an official label for their child. Many find the whole thing too overwhelming and upsetting. Is an autism diagnosis really the end of the world?
Our Experience With Autism Diagnosis
This couldn’t have been further from how I personally felt. We’d known our child was different from about age 3 and taken our concerns to the health visitor. She performed extensive tests. She said that although our son had extremely high level speech and language skills, he’d performed very poorly in other areas. He only had the cognitive skills of an 8 month old baby.
The years that followed were a blur of various doctor’s appointments and therapy blocks. None of these seemed to get us any closer to understanding what was affecting our son’s behaviour.
On the outside, he looked like any other child. People would be puzzled by his behaviour in public places, which could sometimes be extreme. We’d apologise, saying that our son had “special needs,” but this seemed a hollow and superficial label that didn’t really explain his specific condition.
“Your Son Has Autism”
So when, after four years of limbo, we finally got an autism diagnosis for our son, I couldn’t have been happier. Now I could understand why he behaved the way he did and I could actually do some research, learn about the condition and connect with others in similar circumstances. By learning about autism, I could find out what triggered certain behaviours and help to keep my son as happy and calm as possible.
It also became a lot easier to explain to others about my son’s needs, as most people have a basic idea about what autism is, thanks to increased exposure in the media over the last few years. He’d get more targeted help in school and the staff would be able to better understand his sensory and social difficulties in the light of his diagnosis.
Autism Diagnosis Doesn’t Change Who Your Child Is
A child post-diagnosis is still the same person. Nothing has really changed. We just understand them better.
I’ve heard people say that when they had a diagnosis for their child, they went through some sort of grieving process over the life that their child will never have. Personally I don’t feel this way. Autism isn’t a death sentence. An autistic person just has a different way of processing and viewing the world. In fact, many autistic people have learned to embrace their gifts and make a successful career out of their special interests. Indeed, it’s been said that most of the employees in Silicon Valley are “on the spectrum.”
As parents, we can’t plan our kids’ lives for them. We just have to help them have the best life that they can by supporting them in every way possible. An autism diagnosis can help us to do that by giving us better understanding of their needs.
Autism Diagnosis from the Child’s Point of View
A few months ago, another one of my children was diagnosed with autism in their teens. They said to me that they were happy to get the diagnosis because they had always felt different and never understood why. The diagnosis was met with a positive response, a feeling of relief and a big happy smile.
Your child is still your child. Information is power. Use the diagnosis as a stepping stone to learn more about autism and connect with others. Most importantly, use the things you learn to create a happy environment for your child where they can feel safe and grow as a person.