Becoming a parent was both exciting and filled with questions, anxiety, lack of sleep and a menagerie of feelings, and a lot of coffee. As humans, we are designed to take care of others- some things are instinctive, and some things come with a LOT of practice.
From the moment I got the positive test I was excited, but still had a small sense of worry. I worried about being a good enough mom, meeting the standards set by the world of what seems to be expected as a female, as a wife, as a mother, as a student, as an employee. There are so many expectations, yet walking into parenthood, I had no idea what to expect.
Fast-forward. We have the sweetest (and dare I say squeakiest) little boy. His dad and I were watching diligently as he reached his milestones, as if they came easily. Almost too easily – he blazed past some altogether. We were impressed and sat soaking in how our little guy was growing and changing and we wanted to be there for every bit of it.
Eventually we added a roly-poly princess to our family and in time, I joined the workforce full-time, parting ways (tearfully) with my precious littles during the day. Off they went to daycare. Finally spending a greater amount of time around peers their own age, we were blissful for them to learn and grow with other children and hopefully form friendships. Eventually the bliss wore off. We started to notice some irregularities in how our little guy interacted with the other kids. It wasn’t as we expected, and it didn’t seem typical in comparison to his peers.
As a mom, I learned one huge thing is to never compare children. Or just don’t compare in general – my kids are different from someone else’s; my kids are even different from each other. Comparing is just setting yourself up for a headache. However, in this instance, something just didn’t add up. I began to scour the internet searching for anything that could put the pieces together and make sense of the new behaviors we were seeing. We were so confused at how to help with the daycare routine and make sense of what was happening with our little guy. Finally, I landed on two possible thoughts: he was exhibiting behaviors that could fall under Autism or Oppositional Defiance Disorder. The later of the two seemed less likely simply because his daycare teacher and we didn’t think the behaviors were occurring just because he wanted to go against a request. It was far too sporadic for that.
Down the rabbit hole we went. We sought to have him checked out by a child psychologist, at the very least they would see nothing wrong with him and we would need to find a different solution. I began making phone calls and doing research and was able to get an appointment for an evaluation, the wait time was three months. In the meantime, we tried alternative methods of interacting with our son, from how we parented him, and how we responded to his nonverbal requests. When it came time for the evaluation the psychologist spent time interviewing us, we filled out questionnaires, there was a ton of paperwork, they evaluated our little guy physically and mentally. At the end of it, she came to two conclusions; it was either Autism or ADHD. Both would require further analysis, but the fact that he hadn’t yet hit the age of 6, they wouldn’t consider ADHD. They wanted to schedule more testing.
We could breathe a little more knowing we were headed in the right direction. I wanted to schedule for further testing but the testing they offered with the child psychologist wouldn’t be available for another 8 months. I felt that we didn’t have that kind of time. I began doing more research to find alternative testing locations. We decided to pursue Autism specifically as most psychologist wouldn’t test him for ADHD at such a young age (he was three). Eventually we found someone to complete the evaluation and it would only be a wait of 5 weeks.
After his evaluation, the psychologist performing the test said she wasn’t able to give us definitive numerical results without going over the evaluation and putting together the write-up for us, but based on what she saw during the evaluation she could tell us with certainty that he was a child with autism.
As a mother, this was one of those big life moments I cried over. I cried because we finally had answers. I cried because my son was going to be considered special needs. I cried because we weren’t “normal” (though I don’t know that anyone truly is). I cried because I care about my son and I would do anything to keep him safe and healthy. There were so many reasons to have tears, both sad and happy tears, and I want to tell anyone and everyone else who is in that position – it is 100% okay to cry. I encourage you to talk about it and have the feelings you feel. It is okay.
A diagnosis was a big change for us, we could finally find ways to help him that we didn’t know about or understand before. He’s always been a little guy who does well with routine and knowing in advance what is going on and what the expectations are. The American culture isn’t hardwired that way, everything can be very fast-paced and on a whim. We learned to adapt our behaviors and our lives to better help our son. But as a mother or a father, the love you have for your child, you would move mountains for them. So, we moved mountains.
We worked to get him things that were beneficial for him and us to make the new way of living easier for everyone. Not every type of assistance is going to work for every person. We chose ABA therapy, and it worked better for us to have it in-home vs doing it at a facility. We also added Occupational Therapy to a regular routine. But there isn’t a right or wrong for anyone. What works for us is perfect for our life and our family. We encourage finding the resources that are available and using the ones that work for your family.
Becoming a parent is like walking into uncharted territory. Being a parent of a child with special needs can feel the same. Those first days, weeks, or months can feel like you don’t have a clue where you are going or what you are doing. But remember, “it takes a village to raise a child”, and you are NOT alone.