Sitting in the psychologist’s office the moment they finalize the reality that your child has an Autism diagnosis, you have a dual feeling of relief and dread. You’re relieved because you finally have answers as to why your child is the way your child is. And you dread what the future holds for them, because as you might well know, life with an autism diagnosis is so much different and more challenging than life without.
I wrote those words three years ago when we learned that Aiden had autism. They ring true again for us in a very bittersweet way, as we learned a week ago that Micah does as well. Like before, a million thoughts run through your mind.
How did I end up with two this way? Just how bad is it? Will he ever be able to move out of the house, get married, make a life for himself? Oh my poor, sweet darling boy.
And then, you leave the appointment with the psychologist and a burden lifts from your shoulders. It’s surprising, this time. A burden you didn’t even realize was there. And it’s gone, because now you know. And sometimes, knowing is just what you need. Even though it’s hard knowing. Even though it means it will be different knowing. Even though it really means everything is still the same as it always was.
You feel relieved for a moment. And then, this. You remember this sweet face. Still the same sweet face, the same sweet love that he was an hour ago, before you knew. You remember…
All the times he made you laugh. All the times he snuggled up to you on the couch because he just loves you so incredibly much. All the times he drove you bonkers because he had to say just one more thing before he went to sleep at night. All those times he held on to your hand on the walk to school over the last few months, when all the other kids were looking, because he just didn’t want to let go yet.
After you remember you know it will all be okay. No matter what sort of diagnosis he has. No matter how many things aside from autism appear to be wrong with him. It will be okay because he is still the same. And even though you’ve been hit harder than you expected with this news, so are you.
So you go about your day, doing what you need to do. Sometimes an autism diagnosis is like a golden ticket. All the help that you needed for your child is now available to them, because you know. So you make the phone calls. Set up the appointments. Hope and pray that it will all work out to help your child get the support they need.
And then it’s time to go to school and pick up your child at the end of the day. You think you’re okay. You’ve told yourself everything is fine. But as you see him in the hallway, struggling with his coat and backpack, you are flooded with emotions you weren’t expecting. You start to bubble up and tears spill out. Embarrassed, you try and wipe them away so the other parents and the teachers don’t see.
As you walk home, your ears are filled with the wonder and the excitement that he brings. And you’re back to understanding that he is just the same as he was yesterday and the day before. You’re back to understanding that knowledge is power. So you smile, thinking of all the resources your child will now have. All the help he will receive to make him the best he can be.
That unsuspecting grin that he flashes your way with a little giggle and a side stepping dance on the way into the house brings you back home. He is home. His brother is home. Autism is just a part of life now. But then, hasn’t it always been? It’s just that now, you know.