My daughter was diagnosed with autism at the age of two.
I'll never forget the moment my husband approached me with his initial concern. He told he me thought she might be Autistic. By this point Olive was non-verbal and not responding to her name. I was surprisingly offended.
I remember bellowing out, "It's anything but Autism!"
And honestly that is how I truly felt. Olive has always been very out-going, loved running around with other children, and no sensitivities to light or sound. I couldn't see it. At this point in my life I had no idea what Autism was or how it was affecting her.
At this time I was pregnant with our second child. I questioned if I would have had another child if I had known.
Would she ever be able to live independently? Who will care for her when I'm gone? Will I ever hear the words, "I love you."? I was a wreck and she hadn't even been officially diagnosed at the time. I spent a long time "mourning the loss" of my child. My mind was endlessly bombarded with thoughts of wondering if it was something I did, vaccine related, or genetic. Days of coming to terms followed by days of hysterics- it felt like I would never find peace of mind. After months of traveling down a rabbit hole of endless Google searches and books, I knew. My daughter appeared to have every symptom of classic autism. Everyday things I didn’t think twice about were actually all symptoms of autism. Things like the flapping and spinning, which I used to call dancing, was in fact stimming (self-stimulation).
By the time Olive was evaluated and officially diagnosed, we had become very aware of her delays and struggles. On the flip side, we also were able to watch our child begin to flourish through therapy. Even at times of regression, therapy was great for equipping us with the tools we needed to work on in order to understand Olive's needs better. On May 21, 2015 I was told she did in fact have Autism. Honestly, this was good news for us. Her delays had been made so apparent and her behavior had become so precise and bizarre, we needed an answer.
Olive's diagnosis came with so much more than just a label.
I have found peace and understanding in my child's diagnosis. I have a better understanding of the world she lives in, and have fully immersed myself in it. Most importantly I realized I never "lost" my child. She has been the same happy loving child she's always been. A diagnosis doesn't define a person. But it does is open a door to possibilities for an individual. Through early intervention and therapy we saw such a change and learned so much about what it means to be on the spectrum. We were learning why she displayed certain behaviors that in the past we may of passed off as nothing (ex: rapid eye blinking, spinning herself).
I also really began to feel I was getting a genuine understanding of my daughter for the first time.
For instance, her obsessive need to push up against me or anything for the matter. Or why she might prefer to watch T.V. while doing a head stand. As I learned I noticed the more I understood, the easier it became to accept.
A few things I've learned: Between realizing how amazing the child right in front of you is, and having support is half the battle. Using social media platforms to connect with other ASD\Special Needs parents and caregivers was, and still is my favorite ways to connect with others. I learned more about autism through other’s shared experiences than I had through any book. Books don't come with life hacks like how valuable an iPad is, or what pants hide your child's pull up because they’re over potty training age, and you want them to be discreet. A book never taught me to celebrate the little things, and that I’m not alone- genuine people have. Lastly a diagnosis is crucial in order to get the help your child’s needs.
The longer a person goes undiagnosed means the longer the go without proper help and services. And the longer a person goes without help the harder they maybe to reach.
This is why awareness is so important. If your child displays ANY signs of autism or any delay, always consult a doctor. If that doctor tells you your child is "seemingly normal"- Fight for an evaluation. I'm glad we followed our gut because it ended in help, and many more possibilities for my daughter. Do not wait, you owe it to your child to give them ample opportunity to flourish.