I sat for what seemed like hours staring at the small stack of papers the doctor had given me. My tears had already stained many of the pages. My husband understood. He was feeling the same emotions I was. If he had tears to shed though, they were his alone. I stared at the word 'autistic', it stood out among the rest. I ran my finger along the print. Autism, Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Language Processing Disorder, learning disability . . . The tears rained down.
He will be twenty-two this year. I knew the moment our eyes first met there was something special about him. I realize all mothers could make that claim but somehow I knew something was different. He was pure perfection in my eyes. It became more and more apparent there was more to my feeling than just a feeling. He was not meeting milestones he should have been meeting. He was so different from other babies his age.
Twenty plus years ago the 'autistic spectrum' didn't seem to exist. The word autism kept coming to me but the doctors dismissed me each time I suggested it. When he was two he was enrolled in a special needs preschool. He was diagnosed as learning disabled with Sensory Integration Dysfunction. He began speech therapy and occupational therapy and I saw change and growth but there was still something there, right beneath the surface. It seemed I was the only one who could see it.
When he began grade school his services stopped. They said he did not have a qualifying condition to merit the services he so badly needed. He was said to be learning disabled and placed in a mainstream classroom with modified work. I watched my son slip away and I began to fight. All the while teaching him and working with him as I always had, but I fought the school, I fought the district and finally in the fourth grade he was placed in the special day class and he began to learn.
It wasn't enough though. They didn't understand him. They forced him to make eye contact he was unable to make. They forced him to suffer through an ever changing and unpredictable schedule and punished him when he would retreat into his own little world. I once again brought up autism. He can talk they said, he doesn't have autism. He is smart they said, he can't possibly be autistic.
My younger son was having many of the same difficulties and was beginning speech therapy. The school psychologist suggested I had Munchhausen's by proxy and urged me to seek help. I was furious. I made an appointment with yet another doctor and within a week my prayers were answered. By God's grace we walked into the office of a young doctor who recently attended a seminar about autism.
He knew there was a spectrum, he knew of Aspergers and high functioning autism and PDD, he knew how to diagnose my son and he knew what we needed. In my heart I knew he was autistic, now someone else finally understood. I broke down in his office. I tried to hold it back but the flood of emotions I had so long waited to release could not be contained. I praised the Lord right there in that office and have been praising him in thanks every day since.
With this new and proper diagnosis my son was placed in the perfect classroom setting, he was given back the therapies he needed and deserved. He began to grow and learn once again. He graduated from high school is growing every day into wise and wonderful young man, intelligent and witty. He most definitely walks to the beat of his own drummer and he is perfect, just as I always knew he was.
The day my son was diagnosed with autism was one of the happiest days of my life. Two of my four children have autistic spectrum disorders and I know I am blessed.
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