The Diagnosis (April 17, 2019)
For a good part of my life, I never understood the power of my voice. Instead, I learned to master the art of fading into the background. I remember the isolate days and nights praying for something that would give my life purpose, that would give me the love that I seemed incapable of giving myself. I thought the answer to my prayers would come in the form of a relationship, or after losing a substantial amount of weight, but instead it came in the way I least expected it- becoming a mother to a child with Autism.
I remember when my son was a little over two years old, and a simple wellness appointment with his Pediatrician ended up changing my life forever. I remember her listening to my son’s jargon and making a big deal out of him not saying real words and not forming sentences yet. Her disapproving eyes and the condescending tone of her voice. At the time, the only form of communication from my son was incomprehensible noises and mild echolalia, but being a first time mother, I was genuinely happy hearing pretty much any sound coming from him. It meant he was developing. I then remember her unsympathetically telling me, in her exact words, that “something is wrong with him…you should get him evaluated for Autism”. That hit me hard. One, because who was she to judge my son so harshly? Two, because I had never heard of Autism before. And three, because no parent wants to hear that something is “wrong” with their child.
From there, there were numerous therapists and doctors that made it their job to tell me what my son may never be capable of doing. A few of them did so with clipboards in their hands, watching my son line up toys or not answer to his name or make eye contact, while they took down notes and judged him apathetically. We were seeing the same things happening, at the same time, but still so differently. I saw my son innocently playing with some toys, in his own way, and minding his business. They saw a little boy with a “disability” that was playing with his toys in an “off” way, and “refusing” to pay attention to anyone else in the room. They told me that he may never speak properly, hold conversations with me or anyone else, or build an imagination. That he may never transition well in school, be confined to special education throughout his school years, would have a really hard time making friends, and even that there was a very good chance he would have to live with me for the rest of his life…all while my two year old peacefully sat in the center of the carpet and played with his toys.
His diagnosis didn’t break me, but rather lit a spark in me. As a parent, you want to make sure that your child is ok, whatever that takes. I took everything they said, and pretty much ran in the opposite direction of their decided “fate” for my son. I refused to let their word be the final say over his life, or over our lives. It was in that moment that I stepped out from the background that I had grown so accustomed to, and began to realize the power of my voice. Because I knew there was a small chance he may never speak, so I would speak for the both of us. I also knew that I would speak to him as if he was already talking, as if he understood everything I was saying, because I had faith that one day, he would.
I gave him the chance to grow on his own terms. I threw away the term “normal”. What is “normal” anyway? None of us are that and we were never meant to be. I threw away the “Rule Book” of what a “successful” child looks like by a certain age or time, and we have been crushing it together ever since. My son is what happens when prayer, faith, and patience meet. He has defied all the odds stacked against him and is so full of life and love. He speaks basically non-stop, has an incredible imagination, loves making friends, and is at the top of his inclusion class.
I want people to know that it is not about a “cure” or “fixing” Autism. No need to fix what’s not broken. Autism is a part of who my child is, and I wouldn’t change him for anything or anyone.