What a diagnosis does and doesn’t mean

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.


Getting Started With Autism

My ten-year-old son was recently diagnosed with autism. This is not something I saw coming. He’s bright, creative, and funny–and while he’s had issues with anger, frustration, and social skills over the years, autism wasn’t in the realm of possibility in my mind. I’ve met kids with autism. I knew what autism is like, and my son just didn’t fit.

Then I read the report and saw how all the pieces fit together, and I realized I had a lot to learn. So I set out to find some resources to learn how to help him and get support for myself. And that’s where I kept hitting dead ends.

No support groups in my area. No social groups. Nothing within a practical distance that would work within our schedules. My son has a lot of support and resources at school, but I can’t find anything for me as a parent. If he had more severe challenges, I’m sure there would be other resources available to us, but I can’t even find a parents group in my county.

And so I subscribed to a magazine and ordered some books, hoping to glean some insight into the way his brain works and some tools for dealing with his meltdowns. I’m tired and I’m in new territory, and I just want to get through a day without my son losing it over his piano practice, or homework, or a video game not going his way.