“Now I’ll get to the part that you’re really wanting to know, which is, yes, Grayson is on the Autism Spectrum, grouped under the high-functioning area of autism, but he is considered to be on the spectrum.”
Grayson is on the Autism Spectrum.
I think I said that sentence in my head, over and over again for the next few minutes, unable to focus on the next few things she said. Despite all the research I had done, all the facts that seemed to line up perfectly, the fact that we sought out a developmental psychologist to get a more formal diagnosis in order to make sure we had the necessary tools to help him, it didn’t change the fact that in that moment, I heard her confirm that my son was autistic.
As I assume most parents are when they get any kind of diagnosis for their child, my thoughts went to this very strange surreal place in which I was trying to hard to pay attention to what she was explaining to us, but my brain kept repeating, “Your son has autism. Your son has autism. Your son has autism.”
At the end of the day, nothing changes. I know this. Nothing changed immediately that day. I still went to work, left, picked the boys up, made dinner, had our typical nighttime routine, and went to bed.
I’m tying to make sense of my feelings now, a week after his diagnosis. I think somehow, in the back of my head, I always knew. From the very first time someone noticed that G was not hitting the same milestones as other kids, I always had that “what if” thought in the back of my brain. His development in the verbal, social, sensory and emotional areas was different. I remember thinking “Is it always this hard?” when referencing things like getting a haircut, going to the dentist, maintaining a schedule to keep him from having tantrums, or avoiding loud and crowded places out of fear because I didn’t want him to have a meltdown. On the flip side, I had never met a three-year-old who could name all the planets, in order. And then tell me which ones were hot, and which ones were cold. And which ones had rings. Or known a kid who could hum all the songs on a Baby Einstein DVD verbatim.
It’s all kind of piecing together now. In the last almost-six years, we’ve had some rough days. I’ve had some days when I felt like I’d completely failed as a parent. I was ashamed of how I reacted/dealt with a situation I wasn’t sure how to deal with. I was exhausted because I didn’t know how to deal with that situation, and also because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And sometimes, I was terrified to find out.
As overwhelming as the 25 page-booklet of diagnosis codes and explanations she gave us was, I found comfort in the following:
It is important to note that given Grayson’s mild level of symptomatology, and his high IQ, his potential for learning and functioning in a typical environment with appropriate social and behavioral intervention is significant. Grayson will continually progress in these areas, given the right interventions. He is capable of learning and educators should take care to look past the label and understand the child.
He is capable of learning and educators should take care to look past the label and understand the child. YES. Look past the label and understand the child. I am now dedicated to read and learn as much as I can, and share it with others. I have always been a firm believer in building strong parent/teacher relationships, but now I’m especially committed to helping his teachers in whatever way I can.
Since last week, not much has changed immediately. Our love for him hasn’t changed. Our hopes and dreams for him won’t change. I still want him to grow up to be the best human he can be. Now, the only difference is that we have different tools to help us help him get there.
The autism community, I have already found, consists of some absolutely amazing human beings. People have already been willing to help, willing to offer all of their knowledge and resources to help us navigate through the complexities and confusion. They are full of love and hope, and they are genuine.
We are now a part of this big, beautiful rainbow. And I am so proud to be a part of it.