Autism: I am in Denial

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All the signs are there. My son very likely has autism. But I am in denial.

Being an educator, I have worked with kids of all learning levels and learning needs over the years. As a mom, I acknowledge that each of my three children have their own unique personalities. But all the signs are there that my son has autism and I am in denial about it. 

In the Beginning

When it came to my middle child, I didn’t want to accept the signs I saw as him having any learning issues. As far as health factors go, my middle child was wonderful, but his baby babble was lagging in development. Finally by the age of 2, his pediatrician gave us paperwork to contact the Early Steps program through the Florida Department of Health. 

Thankfully we were assigned to a wonderful speech therapist (who is still my friend) since both my boys went through the program for their speech delays. My son’s pediatrician gave me information to have my son tested for autism, but since I was dealing with postpartum depression and a newborn, I unfortunately misplaced that paperwork and did not want to pursue it.

I didn’t want to think that my son could be autistic.

I know that might make me sound bad or insensitive to others, but as an educator I have seen too many high school age kids use their diagnosis as a crutch and justification to not try hard. I didn’t want my son to grow up thinking that his learning differences were a reason to not challenge himself.

Our speech therapist said she’s not allowed to diagnose kids but encouraged me to get him tested for autism. I had so many questions and did not know where to begin, it was all so overwhelming. I wish there was a screening tool or something to help make the diagnosis process easier. The next time I was at the pediatrician’s office we were assigned a new doctor who told me she saw no reason to test him.

Being in a state of denial, I didn’t push for it. 

When He Started School

Once my son turned 3, the program transfers kids from in-home help to a local school that has the Pre-K program for kids with special needs. He only had about 20 words and his own language that we referred to as “M_ babble”.

Over the course of his first year at half day school, he did show a lot of improvement in speech development, however he still retained his babble, wouldn’t look at you when talking or respond to questions in daily conversations. He was able to name all the planets and dwarf planets, count to 100 forwards and backwards, and knew all of his shapes, colors, and ABC’s. Yet these were not considered growth in vocabulary to the state requirements. 

Fast forward, we were in the Pre-K program for nearly 3 years because of the birthday cut off dates for school enrollment. When he transferred to Kindergarten, his IEP (individual education plan) was updated and he continues to receive services through the school.

Even now into 1st grade and about to turn 7, the staff at his school have been great at helping him improve with his communication, conversational, and social skills, working on his verbal ticks, and helping him to become self motivated in a timely manner to complete tasks.

I’m impressed with his progress but know he has a lot of growth still to go. 

How We Are Coping

My son is still often in his own little world, so extended time on his assignments and assessments is greatly appreciated. I’m thankful for the social growth he has made as well. He is able to play with kids even though he is unable to verbally express himself fully.

When he was younger, I often felt like it was difficult to make friends as a stay at home mom because often the other kids didn’t seem to know how to play with him because he didn’t walk. That and the fact that I don’t drink alcohol or coffee (like most of the mom friends we came across), made me feel like I was really alone and that no one liked us. 

Blessed to have finally made some friends, I still have yet to have my son officially diagnosed for autism. The developmental staff at his school do believe he is high functioning autistic, and that took me some time to accept, but they also said that at some point I will need an official diagnosis for him to continue to receive services. 

We’ve made lots of friends since moving to Florida from California years ago. But I know that my son will continue to struggle in this department.

What I Wish I Knew Earlier

Recently I have received information for As You Are. This is a virtual clinic with a team of physicians who specialize in guiding families along their autism journey. They equip parents with the knowledge they need to help their children flourish.

They see kids 16 months – 10 years old. This would have been a huge help in the early stages. I love that every family has a dedicated Care Sidekick who will help ensure their family gets access to the appropriate care and resources in their area after they receive a diagnosis. This may have helped to make accepting the fact that something was “off” easier for me.

Knowing this is something I need to do, I’m excited to try the services at As You Are. They accept most insurances and I can do it from the comfort of my own home where the Doctors can see my son in his natural environment.

How As You Are Works
  1. Decide you are ready for a virtual appointment
  2. Provide health information
  3. Get your virtual visits scheduled
  4. Prep for your first virtual visit

Then, get your “Checklist” ready:

  • Device with video and audio capabilities – tablet, laptop, or desktop is recommended.
  • Items around your home to have available during your virtual appointment:
    • A few toys you’ve already got on hand, like a ball, toy cars, baby doll, stuffed animals, puzzles, bubbles, etc.
    • Something your child needs your help to open. For example, a cookie jar, bubble jar, plastic container – something your child cannot open on their own.
  • Choose a quiet, secluded, enclosed location with limited distractions (e.g, TV, fun siblings) and ensure your camera isn’t directly facing a window.

You can take a peek at to what the process is like with As You Are from start to finish. It is pretty impressive. I am excited to schedule an evaluation and to see how As You Are can help us get a formal diagnosis, as I know that it is the best next step for my son.

I look forward to his continued growth and the awesome person he will become.

He is such a sweet and caring boy; I just want to be able to talk with him instead of at him.

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