Nothing prepares you to receive a diagnosis for your child. No amount of Google searching. No in-depth conversations reliving every single milestone in your young child’s life. No “just give me a sign” plea to the higher power in your life.
Nothing prepares you for the moment that a doctor sits across from you and changes your life with 7 words.
7 words you probably already knew were true. 7 words you spent countless nights wishing away. 7 words you feared. 7 words your ran from. 7 words you will never un-hear. Just 7 little words.
“Your son is on the autism spectrum.”
You look at your child a million different ways. From a million different perspectives. You look from top to bottom; inside out. And each and every time you change your angle, you will see the same thing. You see your child.
You see the physical traits. You see the behaviors. You see their emotional and physical responses to new situations. You see the facial expressions that tell you what kind of mood they are in. You see the preferences they are developing. You start to learn their triggers. The things in their path that pull them of course.
You look at your child and you see them for all that they have ever been; yours. All of them. Even the parts you wish you could heal. Even the pieces that you know might never fit. Even the parts that scare you.The parts you do not understand.
And then all the sudden someone else sits before you and your child. Someone who has only seen a small fraction of all the moments you hold so dear. Someone who will never know all the layers of your child. All the expressions and traits and behaviors. That person sits before you and they change your world. They tell you that your child; the one who’s heart first beat from inside of you, is different from you in a way that you cannot change. In a way that you cannot begin to understand.
And for just a moment you stare back at the doctor as if they are a thief. As if they have just stolen something from you. Something that was yours; more than anything else has ever been yours before. They strip you of everything you thought you knew and replace it with an uncomfortable blank slate. An empty slate. A new beginning in a foreign land.
My son was two-year-old when he first received his autism diagnosis. Every single day of the last four years we have navigated this foreign land. Using only the diagnosis as our guide, we walk this journey.
And I keep waiting for it to feel familiar. To find comfort in this never-ending journey. A journey we learn a little more about every single day.
But the comfort does not come. The familiarity does not set in. Each day feels as new as the last. Filled with uncertainty and fear and just a little bit of wonder. Something new awaits us around every twist and turn. And there are not road signs on this journey. No warnings of what might lie ahead.
Almost four years to the day from the autism diagnosis I found myself, as I often do, sitting before a medical team. And, I should have sensed the familiarity. I should have been comforted by past experiences. I should have recognized it sooner.
I did not.
I sat in an unfamiliar-familiar place and heard 7 little words. 7 new words. 7 words with a just a little bit of nostalgia. 7 words that would further complicate an already complicated journey. 7 words that will change our course. Again. 7 little words.
“Your son has a dual diagnosis; ADHD.”
I still look at my child and see the only thing that that has every really mattered. He is mine. He is mine more than anything has ever been mine. He is mine. His autism is mine. His ADHD is mine. Every piece of this beautifully complex person is mine.
And so we turn the page. A new beginning in a foreign land.