“Autism spectrum disorder is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities.”
~Mayo Clinic Staff
At my sons 5 year appointment I was hit like a truck with a question from his pediatrician. A question, while I had somewhat anticipated coming, I was still not prepared for…… “do you think your child may have Autism”. It’s like being in a car crash. Time stops, you almost feel yourself coming out of your body and shock inevitably sets in, again no matter how much you prepare for that question. I think anytime you hear that there is something “wrong” with your child this happens. You just freeze for a moment and try and process just what has happened.
“Do you think your child may have Autism?”
Our son had been what we thought was “normal” for most of his young life. A very active, sensitive, caring and daring little boy. But when we finally put him in preschool at 4 it started to become clear there may be an issue. The teachers began to ask questions about his behaviors and suggesting testing for him. While I think we had always suspected something we still wanted to “wait to see” if this was just him getting used to being in a classroom, is he just being a boy or is there a bigger issue. While some issues did get better others did not. Then when his Sunday school teacher requested that we have a helper in the room when he comes to Sunday school, because she felt it may help him get more out of the lesson to have someone help him one on one, I really began to wonder. Questions about sensory input, deep pressure techniques, language delay and other things began to circle around and at first I was in denial. I didn’t want to think there was anything wrong, nobody does. I began looking online for videos of 5 year olds with high functioning autism and began to see similarities. Things there that made me wonder even more. I began reading blog posts and articles about kiddos with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and seeing some similarities and sometimes not seeing them or maybe just not wanting to see them. Then at his 5 year appointment it came up and it hit like a freight train. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office nodding and saying that I think we should have this looked at all while trying not to break down into tears in the doctor’s office in front of my son. My son and I went back to the car to go home and I texted my husband what the doctor said before we left and drove home while he watched Schoolhouse Rock, one of his favorites.
As usual I plunged myself into “let’s get this fixed” mode and trying to find an evaluator, which is a whole other bucket of trouble. It took an entire week of phone calls with doctors and the insurance company to try and find an evaluator. Somewhere in that week the dam finally broke and I remember just sobbing wondering how I could have missed this, is there something more that I could have done so my son would have a “normal” life. I would be fine until someone said the “A” word and then I would just break down in tears for a good week and a half. But then I remembered what his doctor told me. No matter what the diagnosis, he is still Cooper. He is still my fun, imaginative, sensitive and caring little boy who loves science, construction equipment, trains and building with anything he can get his hands on.
“I am different not less” ~ Temple Grandin
So after waiting for a month and a half, biting our nails, trying not to think about the possibilities we were finally able to get Coopers evaluation done (I will write about that nightmare in another post). Then we had to wait another few weeks for the results to be calculated. I was prepared when we went in to meet with his evaluators for a diagnosis of Autism, while still holding out hope that it wasn’t. We sat in an office and listened to the results of all the testing they did, all while waiting to hear the main verdict. We finally got to the results of the autism test and his evaluator gave the diagnosis I don’t think I even breathed. She did confirm Autism and I cried again. No matter what you do, no matter how much you prepare the diagnosis of Autism is never easy to hear, my nephew’s wife warned me of this. So we finished our meeting with the evaluator, while I pondered my son’s future in my mind. We shook hands and left the office building and headed home. As I drove home I talked to my husband, some family and close friends about the diagnosis and hearing the encouragement of those voices I began to feel myself gain the strength I needed again. But the one comment that rang the loudest in my mind came from my wonderful mother in law….”he is still our Cooper”. Yes he is and he will always be and I wouldn’t change that for anything.