I walked out into the crisp Pacific Northwest air with the same heaviness, shock and also numbness, in my heart I’ve felt twice before. The first time was 10 years ago. The second was three years ago.
It never gets easier.
Each time, I was prepared to hear the words the doctors would say, but each time when I saw the word “autism” in black and white, the same old Heavy settles in. I feel like the whole world has changed, but at the same time, every single thing is the same.
Today, the third of my four children was diagnosed with autism. My youngest son has Asperger’s. As far as diagnoses go- it’s all autism.
He’s been having problems in school for years. We always thought they were age related and would go away with time. They didn’t. At first, it was because he was stubborn. Then I believed it was because he was gifted, and the neurosis he feels was a part of that. Then we thought it was OCD. We hoped it was OCD. After meeting with the school- his teacher, the principal and director of gifted services along with the resource teacher I adore, we decided to have him evaluated to find out more of what we were working with.
The first meeting with the psychologist was just with me. Lance was out of town. As I discussed Peyton, the psychologist kept asking me questions that were indicative of his thought train: autism. So I flat out told him it wasn’t autism. I KNOW autism. He’s too creative. He’s very loving. He doesn’t melt down…at least not like Casey…He doesn’t have problems socially…except…Oh yeah, he has sensory issues. His diet is limited to only about five things and he won’t wear certain types of clothes. On and on. I didn’t realize until after, but this amazing psychologist had helped guide me to coming to the conclusion on my own: Peyton has aspergers. I would have fought him to the death if he had just come out and said it. I would have felt like he didn’t think I knew what I was doing. I knew autism!
And yet, I didn’t know HIS autism. It wasn’t even really on my radar. I’d thrown it out a couple of times, but always walked it back thinking that it just wasn’t him. When the psychologist guided me to that conclusion, my mind was flooded with the aspies I know. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure.
It hit me a lot harder than I even want to admit. Three out of my four children are on the autism spectrum. It’s a hard pill to swallow. This isn’t what I wanted for him. I wanted it to be something he’d grow out of. I wanted this to not be another trial that didn’t go away. Not for him, and selfishly, not for me. I didn’t want things to be harder for him than they already were growing up in a home with two disabled siblings and one crazy ass mom.
I agonized about how to tell him. One of the reasons we looked into getting assessments done is that he personalizes everything. He’s SO hard on himself. I was afraid that he’d internalize this as something that was his fault. I was afraid that he’d hear “autism” and he would only see how his siblings were affected by it. One night while we were doing homework he threw down his pencil and in tears said, “Why am I like this?!” So I told him that the doctor thought it was possible that he was on the autism spectrum. He knows all about autism, including some of the famous people who have Aspergers. He knows that his “Aunt K” (not his real aunt, spoils him just the same) is an aspie and she’s worked at cool places like Playstation and LucasFilm. After about a minute he quickly said, “Oh, interesting. That makes sense.”
It does make sense. I’m not completely okay with it right now, but he is. And that’s what matters.
Tomorrow I will march into his school with another education folder, just like the ones I have for Casey and Abby, tucked under my arm and begin the work it takes to modify his environment so that he has the best shot at living up to his capabilities.
That’s a lie. I probably won’t march. I’ll drag my feet. I’ll probably cry when I say he’s autistic. But I’ll get over myself enough to do what I have to do.