My daughter was 5 years old when we got the “official” diagnosis of Autism. We had previously been working with her school that had tested her and found she had Autistic-like tendencies and put her on an IEP (independent educational program), so we had an inkling, not a diagnosis.
I have to tell you, of all the things we wish for for our children, health, happiness, college, to find love, it never occurred to me that she could have that with her diagnosis. You hear the words “Autism” and it’s like hearing Cancer, it almost feels life ending. I felt cheated, I felt like all those things I wanted for her were gone, I cried in anger…..and then I let the pity party end. Nothing had changed, she was still my sweet child, my gorgeous daughter, and all those things I wished for her future, are still there.
In my intense search to understand what a diagnosis of Autism meant, I found two things:
1. There’s no cure. She won’t grow out of it. There’s no magic pill. It is what it is.
2. She may not understand what she’s being taught, but we can alter how she’s being taught to make her understand.
Where there is a will, there is a way. I vowed right there and then, Autism is what my child has, not who she is. I vowed to be her biggest advocate. To voice what she can’t, when she can’t. I vowed to fiercely protect her little heart from kids and adults that just don’t understand what Autism is. I vowed to be her biggest fan and cheer her milestones no matter how small they may seem to everyone else. I vowed to be the best parent I can for her. And guess what?
I remembered I had vowed all those things for my older daughter. The “normal” one. Of course, we all know, normal is just a dryer setting. Nothing had changed. I’m just a mom. She’s just my daughter. I’m still her mama-bear and she’s still my baby cub, no matter what.
In the grand scheme of things, it’s a label. She’s a wonderfully sweet child. She has her days, but all kids do. Am I exhausted? Yes, but it’s a different level of exhaustion. The celebrations of life are so much sweeter with her in my life. And just like her, we’re altering and adjusting our lives and working on her level. It’s the things that we do together that matter.