My son, T at 4 years old, was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) 2 months ago.
By the time the developmental assessment came up, it had been so long ago that we had seen problems, we almost didn’t take the opportunity when it came up. (It had been over a year since we were referred). The issues that had initially created the need for the assessment had seemed to subside (with a change in day care locations) and T wasn’t behaving the same way he had when he was there.
BUT there still were occasional questions of the way he behaved at times so we thought it was worthwhile to get a final answer once and for all and help us stop wondering the What If’s??
So we went. Well, T and I went for 2 full days. Two days of watching him get utterly exhausted as he met with everyone from a Psychologist, to a Speech Pathologist to a Play Therapist to an Occupational Therapist to a Neurologist..the list seemed endless. I was able to sit in on a couple of the interviews but to be honest, I’m not sure if that helped or hindered. He kept looking at me with curious eyes wondering why I was making him do all of this. More than once, he asked if we could go home.
Internally, I wanted to leap from my chair, grab him and run for the exit, the momma bear in me uber-protective and desperate to give him a break. There were a number of times I knew he could have gotten an answer if only they asked it differently, but therein lies the rub…this was standard testing and in that world, T didn’t do so well.
At the end of the two days, my husband and I met with the team of experts who had gone through the tests with T. They each recounted their experiences, indicating he was a polite kid with a happy disposition and in certain areas, quite smart..case in point when they were doing social examples with dolls playing and asked T to tell them what the dolls were doing next, he just said “the dolls are sleeping, they want to go to sleep”. A true indicator to them he was DONE with the tests.
Even with all the summations, it still came as a complete shock when they told us he was diagnosed on the Spectrum. Autism hadn’t even entered our brains. ADHD? Sure..he had definitely shown signs of lacking focus and avoiding eye contact but we thought they might even say that we were over-reacting and he was perfectly normal.
We left the hospital in tears. In shock and not having a clue what to do next. I scoured the internet when I got home but to be honest, it was way too overwhelming and so much of it didn’t feel like it pertained to us. It wasn’t until a dear old friend reached out who has a son with Aspergers, and gave us a run down of what to expect at the beginning of dealing with this.
I must admit, the first month sucked. We both went through versions of the stages of grief- anger, pity pot, guilt, sadness, bargaining and are close…(almost there) to acceptance.
We are now in the throes of learning as much as we can about Autism…finding resources, reading books, meeting with the school, meeting with the daycare, adjusting slowly to what this means for our family. We are cognizant that this might have an impact on our marriage, we are aware that we need to be careful on how we manage both kids. Not excusing everything T does because of his autism and ensuring L (our 3 year old daughter) doesn’t lose out because all the focus is on him. As my husband said recently, everything has changed and nothing has changed…he’s still our loveable, sweet little guy who has a rather endearing obsession with Thomas the Tank Engine and has a ridiculous ability to memorize words…but life as we once knew it feels like its changed forever.