I’ve been thinking a lot about the first time we heard the word “autism” in relation to Monkey. From the day we self-referred for a speech assessment, I had dreams that they would tell us our son was autistic. It was a manifestation of my anxieties. In sleep, my fears and worries would present themselves in dreams, while awake I tried to prove that my worries were unfounded. I think most parents go through this period of denial when dealing with a situation like this. You try to tell yourself that you’re just being silly, your kid is totally normal, and you’ll hear as much from professionals. For some, this denial lasts a long time (for many, it lasts until the diagnosis), for others, they know and accept the diagnosis before it is even given.
Shortly before Monkey’s first speech assessment, my good friend was visiting with her husband and daughters. She’d long been my sounding board, especially in regards to parenting. She knew my worries, and she knew my son. She encouraged us to get Monkey assessed, and always supported me, calmed my fears, reminded me that no matter what, Monkey was still the same sweet kid he’d always been. The day before the assessment, she told me not to be alarmed if they mention autism. And that was all she said about that. Afterward, she mentioned to me that she had suspected Monkey had autism (she has personal experience with ASD, it wasn’t just something she was throwing around).
At the assessment, all of Monkey’s quirks were on display, we filled out paperwork that highlighted the areas he was behind, we explained his repetitive behaviours, we watched as the speech-language pathologist tried to engage with Monkey and get him to speak to her. She pointed out red flags and said the word I’d dreaded to hear. She couldn’t tell us whether or not she thought Monkey had autism, but she recommended getting him on the wait list for developmental assessment and autism diagnosis. The choice was up to us, but she encouraged us to do it. We did.
From that point, autism consumed us. We read hundreds of articles of information on autism. Dozens of blog posts from parents who had gone through what we were going through. We read a dozen books. It was clear to us that our son had autism. We made a decision to accept the inevitable and not hide in denial until we got a diagnosis. Early intervention was important, so we did everything we could. Now, a year has passed, and many people have worked with Monkey. All of them have said they highly suspect autism. We’ve made such great strides in Monkey’s development, and I think this is mainly because we chose not to hide our heads in the sand, but instead embraced the new “normal” for us.
But still, the “A” word has been hard to hear. It is still hard to say sometimes. When trying to get pregnant, I used to pray that God would give me a baby. I’d tell Him I didn’t care if the baby wasn’t perfect. I’d take anything He could give me. I’d love a baby with health issues, I’d love a baby with down syndrome, I’d love a baby who was deaf or blind. I’d be a great mom, God, just please give me a baby. Little did I know He would take me up on that offer, and give me a son who was deemed different, who was developmentally delayed, whose brain worked differently than mine. Maybe God knew I’d love Monkey no matter what. Maybe He knew that I would find the strength to be his mommy. Or maybe He knew I needed Monkey, and Monkey needed me for a mommy. Autism isn’t a blessing, but Monkey is. I wouldn’t trade him for anything.