“Does Declan flap his hands?”
“Sometimes. But not very often.”
“Oh….Does he walk on his toes?”
“Does he make eye contact?”
“Eventually. But it is very hard for him at first.”
Sometimes I feel like I answer every question that goes along with a facet of autism.
The Pediatrician is no different. The last time we saw him he referenced the toothpick scene in Rain Man when he was examining Declan, and asked if Declan was a savant with numbers.
Autism is a Diagnosis, Not a Label
I can usually pick up pretty quickly when I meet someone who is trying to fit my children into their autism mental mold. Their mental mold of what autism is, what autism looks like, and all children diagnosed with autism look or act a certain way.
I get it – I used to do it too.
I was so certain Declan did not have autism that I allowed for him to be evaluated. His behavior did not fit into my mental mold of autism. Turns out, I was wrong. And I grieved when he was diagnosed.
3 years later I feel like Declan being diagnosed with autism is the best thing that could have happened for him and the entire family.
When Declan was diagnosed with autism, I didn’t know what it meant. Yes, I knew that Declan was facing challenges. Yes, I knew that things were hard.
Did that mean things were always going to be that hard?
What was autism?
As we were trying to figure this out, Declan was enrolled in autism services. He started to learn, grow and talk more. He started to smile!
I erased my mental mold and started over. I saw the challenges Declan and the family faced. But I watched Declan and let him show me the way.
When Catelyn was diagnosed I did not grieve. But I still had a lot to learn about High Functioning Autism and the Autism Spectrum. As we did with Declan, my husband and I questioned if we share that she was diagnosed. I knew autism is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. It’s a diagnosis, not a label. We are very proud of Catelyn, and how she works through the challenges she must face.
Believe it or not, we do not talk about autism much in this house. My husband and I talk about the kids. We accept that autism is a part of our family, but it does not define Declan or Catelyn. Autism just tells you a little bit about them.
Catelyn and Declan are not autism child number one and autism child number two. They are Catelyn and Declan.
If I were to meet you on the street, I would not tell you my children have autism unless it came up. I would tell you Declan loves Spiderman. He loves to play video games and enjoys playing imaginary games of Ghostbusters, Star Wars or Superhero’s. I would tell you that Catelyn loves to do cartwheels, play soccer and act on a stage.
Autism is just a diagnosis that describes some of the challenges that the kids face. But it is not all they are.
Autism is a diagnosis, not a label