This full post is on Parents.com:
15 Things I Wish I’d Known When My Son Got an Autism Diagnosis
Autism surprised me five years ago, and it continues to surprise me today. Over the years, I’ve written this sentence so many times: “On my 32nd birthday, my son got an autism diagnosis…”
And although I still remember almost everything about that morning, today, on the five-year anniversary of my son’s diagnosis and my 37th birthday, I wish I could go back in time and tell myself these things:
You’re not “going to a funeral.”
As I wrote five years ago, when we walked into the doctor’s office to get my son’s diagnosis, I said to my husband, “I feel like I’m going to a funeral.” I realize now how melodramatic and wrong-headed that statement was—my son wasn’t dying, and the grief I felt would have been mitigated had I known more about neurodiversity or had I met the wonderful autistic adults I know now.
Don’t forget to hope.
In the early days after my son’s diagnosis, I despaired. There were so many people telling me my son was broken, I lost my way. Eventually, hope replaced fear, but I wish I could tell myself that my child moving along a different developmental trajectory is not a reason to lose hope.
Things will be harder than you expect, and there will be more joy than you can imagine.
The last five years have had some very rough spots, but they’ve also been filled with more joy than I ever expected. I’d like to tell my younger self that yes, there will be hard days, but you will be constantly surrounded by laughter, snuggles, and joy from both your children.
Autism means a different neurology, not a broken one.
Why didn’t someone tell me this sooner? Autistic adults and other writers are certainly trying to share the message that our kids are different, not damaged. They don’t need a cure, they need support. Knowing this on diagnosis day would have changed so much for me.
Your boy will laugh, love, connect, and grow—all in his own time.
The first prognosis seemed so grim: severe autism, probably will never communicate or show affection. Likewise checklists showing his “developmental age” were just dreary. I want to tell my younger self—don’t believe these! Believe in your child. Nurture his potential, follow his interests. If he loves something—like stimming or spinning or watching Elmo—let him enjoy it. He will be a happier child if you do.
He will communicate.
When my son stopped talking, I thought that meant he would never communicate. I was so very wrong about this, as his use of RPM and other communication methods have shown us he’s got a lot going on in his mind that he wants to tell us.