Today it became official. Deep down I knew that the day was probably coming, I mean, I am with my child more than anyone else. I am the one that scheduled his appointments for his evaluation. I have been through this all before. So why do I still feel so blindsided? I sit here and try to give myself the same advice that I would give to anyone else in my situation, and it is good advice. But the reality is, I still had this small bit of hope, deep down, that it would be different this time. He flirted the line with being on the spectrum for so long, and I knew this was likely the outcome. But I guess even knowing ahead of time didn’t change how hard it still is to hear, for how permanent it all feels. Today, my youngest son Drew was diagnosed with autism too.
We’ve had a lot of back-and-forth with Drew, knowing that he had some delays, some unusual quirks, but not quite sure if he was actually on the spectrum. For two years now we have been checking in every so often with a developmental pediatrician and a child psychologist to get their thoughts on what may be going on. At first, I thought maybe just some type of speech delay, then maybe just some type of processing issue. Every visit we saw them was the same thing, they would say maybe he has autism, but maybe not, lets just keep watching and keep giving him support and check back. I couldn’t fault them on this, I myself was in the same boat. One day he would do something that would make me think that maybe he was on the spectrum, and then the next day I’d think maybe not.
It wasn’t as obvious as it is with Damion. Drew’s issues are there, but they are much more subtle. He makes great eye contact, he does great with pretend play, he has lots of good and original ideas; these are all things that Damion still struggles with. He is spot on in so many areas and has made a lot of progress over the past few years, but there were still things that were just not quite were they should be. His language is still the biggest gap, he talks, more and more everyday actually, but the language part is still lacking. He often will talk in repeated phrases, or script the way Damion might. He doesn’t ask why questions and wouldn’t be able to answer a question about abstract things such as “favorite” at this point. His communication, although far above what Damion’s was at his age, is still our biggest barrier. Mix all that with his sensory issues, and problems with social interactions with same age peers, and you get to where we are with him today, being placed on the spectrum.
And boy, the word spectrum has never quite felt so fitting. I feel like my two boys could be models for just how wide a spectrum really is. Even though they share some basic similarities, the differences between them, especially comparing them at same age are noticeable, measurable even. Knowing that Drew’s struggles will likely, hopefully, not be what Damion has had helps give me some comfort.
I always knew the stats. I knew that if I had one child on the spectrum, I had a 25% chance of having another child with autism too. I know that having a diagnosis doesn’t change who he is. I know having the diagnosis makes it easier to access other services for him. I know that I have done this before so I already know where to go from here. Yes, I KNOW ALL THE THINGS, and yet here I am again. I’ll let myself have a pity party for the day, maybe two, and then I’ll take a deep breath and dust myself off. I now have two boys on the spectrum, and I need to be ready to help them both.