So you’re thinking your kid might have autism?
It can be overwhelming, I know. Seven years ago, I was right where you are now.
At first, I thought it was an adjustment to his new baby sister. Then, I thought maybe it was a lack of experience, so we enrolled him in a part-time preschool class. It only took two days for his teacher to see what I couldn’t.
I will never forget that conversation. His sweet teacher was loving and gracious and could not have handled it better. But still. My stomach sank to my toes. For the entire ride home, every time I glanced in the rearview mirror at his sweet three-year-old face, the tears came hot and fast.
We wrestled with the idea of an official evaluation. We resisted the idea of a “label.” We didn’t want this to change our kid.
But here’s the thing, mama, an autism diagnosis is not the end of the road. It’s just the beginning of a new path.
Actually, it’s not even a new path at all. It’s just a signpost for the path you are already on.
Because a diagnosis cannot and will not change your child. Your kiddo is still the same awesome kid, fearfully and wonderfully made. The only thing that changes is your filter.
When we began to see what was really going on inside our boy, when we began to see his behavior through our new filter, we were able to use all the new tools in our parenting toolbox to help him. And even more importantly, we were able to give him the tools he needed in his toolbox to help himself.
If you think your child has some indicators for autism, please don’t be afraid to have an evaluation done. In my experience, diagnoses aren’t handed out like lollipops. And even if they were, your child being unnecessarily labeled is not the worst thing that could happen. That can always be corrected later. With autism, huge progress can be made with early interventions. The bigger worry would be to have five or ten years go by before a needed evaluation, missing out on those early interventions.
Listen, mama. I don’t mean to make it sound like a piece of cake. An autism evaluation and diagnosis definitely do not fall into the “No Big Deal” category.
You will be asked to go here and there. And unfortunately, new places with new faces are not often easy things for kids. You will be asked to fill out pages and pages of questionnaires. It will seem like you are sorting your child’s entire existence into neat little stacks of Always, Sometimes, Rarely, and Never. It will feel as if you’re being asked to focus on all the negatives. You will want to shout back about your child’s incredible memory or amazing artistic skills or incomparable capacity to love.
It’s not easy. But hang in there, mama. You can do this. I promise. Because we can do anything when it comes to what’s best for our kids.
And then, when all the appointments are kept and all the forms filled out and all is said and done? When your path has an adjusted signpost and you might be struggling to find your way?
Look to your right.
Look to your left.
There are many of us on the same path. You are not alone. Autism moms are a sisterhood of sorts. We truly get what you’re feeling and experiencing. We’ll be there for you whenever you need us. We offer a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, a glass of wine, and all the high fives because nothing is too small to celebrate.
It might seem impossible right now, but you’ll find your way. And as you do, remember you’re not alone. We’ve got you, mama.