What a diagnosis does and doesn’t mean

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We got an autism diagnosis shortly before his 10th birthday when we had him tested for ADD, and I was completely blown away. All of his life, I’ve seen certain struggles and chalked them up to emotional immaturity. Developmentally, he grew just fine, and in some areas he excelled. He showed artistic ability starting at two, and I was relieved to see deep compassion by five or six. He’s always been “quirky,” but I encourage walking to the beat of your own drummer. He’s been extremely social and extroverted since he could walk, and never exhibited stranger danger. He is so smart and has a unique perspective on a lot of things. He’s been a comedian and entertainer for as long as I can remember. He has an extraordinary vocabulary.

However, he’s had his difficulties, especially in relating to peers, but isn’t that expected in gifted children? Since preschool, we’ve had extra conferences with his teachers. We’ve always had an amazing support system from his schools in helping troubleshoot his difficulties. In third grade, he started exhibiting troubling tendencies, and when we met with his school, the first thing they said was, “He has anger issues; what can we do to help?”

Since then, he’s seen the school social worker on a regular basis, been in a small group session with other kids at school once a week, and has a customized “check in check out” program that has taught him to self-monitor his behavior. He goes to a therapist once a week, and he’s been in ABA therapy for over a year. (Insurance slowed down the process after the diagnosis, but eventually we got him 1:1 ABA therapy about four to five times a week.

Now at 11, I see him maturing in so many ways. He still has a lot of difficulties with “social skills” and other deficiencies but we see regular progress.

He is compassionate but has a hard time empathizing. Yet he can be incredibly perceptive about emotions and psychological states at times. His sense of humor shows that he really gets verbal nuances. His brain is such a puzzle.

I love my child for who his is, and I wouldn’t change him for anything. Getting the diagnosis was probably the best thing for us, as it helped us better understand him. But there’s still so much that amazes me every day.

It’s been said that if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. That is even truer today than it’s ever been.

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