I think it would be interesting to be a doctor that diagnoses autism. A family comes to you in a very vulnerable place. You give them the dreaded diagnosis and they go home and learn how to deal with it. The next check-up, the parents that you met last time are just a little stronger. Then the next time, and the next time. You see these changes happen. Until 1-2 years later, and they are no longer the person that they were at the initial appointment. It is a metamorphosis process of sorts that you are forced into as parents of children with special needs. No one asks for this life, but you take it and you adjust, and you become the person you need to be. Out of necessity. It would be hard to give the person the diagnosis, and know that you are drastically changing this person’s life. Obviously, the doctor is not actually the one changing their life, but it is the onset of their new reality. The actual diagnosis.
I would never want to go back and live that 6 months following diagnosis again. It was a dark, confusing, hard time. When I see parents about to get the diagnosis/ ones who just did, my heart goes out to them. I hurt for them knowing what is to come. I give advice, but nothing I can do can change what they are going through. You just have to step aside and watch them change into the person that they need to be. As they learn to do autism their way. Don’t get me wrong, I love the community in the autism world, and I don’t know what I would have done without people’s help along the way. Those who answered my questions about therapy, behaviors, self-care. But nothing can take away that stage that you must go through to be the Autism Parent you need to be.
I distinctly remember a meltdown that E was having one night. He was out of control. Literally. I don’t think he had actual control over what he was doing anymore. Nothing would get him to calm down. I was holding him in his room in the dark trying to get him to go back to sleep. He was flailing and trying to move everywhere. I was holding him as best as I could to keep him safe from himself. I could not comfort him. I just sat. I held it together at first, but then he wriggled a bit from the position I was holding him in and head butted me in the lip. Hard. My lip was split, swollen, and bleeding. That instant of sheer pain destroyed the barrier that was keeping me together. I sat there crying, holding my son, pleading with a higher power to help me know what to do. I thought in that moment, I cannot do this. I am not strong enough to handle this situation. I wondered why I was given a child like this. I felt claustrophobic, wondering if there was a light at the end of the tunnel. My husband came up to check on the situation. He took E from me and had a turn trying to calm him down. I went into my room and cried and cried and cried. I felt like a failure, unable to calm my own child. I thought it impossible that I could stretch any further without breaking. But I did. The wounds heal into a sort of armor, and you get up and you do it again and again and again. You get used to people staring in public when your child melts down. You get to used to the comments of others, strangers and sometimes those close to you even, about your parenting. You get used to having to dodge your child’s aggressive behaviors as if you are in a boxing match. You get used to functioning on 3 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. You get used to filling out paper work and going to countless appointments. Strong people are not born strong. They are made.