...then you know one kid with autism."
There are several quotes that I have heard over the years that really have changed my way of thinking. This one I found about kids with autism (which can be applied to any disability) is one of those quotes. When we are looking for a diagnosis to explain our child, we search to find the common thread that runs through our child's unusual behaviors. We are searching for an answer to explain what is going on with them. We watch other people's kids who have autism or adhd or other disorders and we work hard to find the commonalities between them. We want an answer and yet we don't.
I brought Elijah to the developmental pediatrician recently. Being the youngest of 9 siblings with a host of disabilities, Elijah has the benefit of having parents who know where to go and what to look for when assessing developmental skills...did I say benefit? I am not always sure. I don't want to be looking for disabilities but I do believe in the benefits in early intervention and I do trust my instincts and experience to know what something is just not right.
We knew from the day that Elijah came to our home that something was not quite "right." The teachers and therapists that worked with him could agree that he was significantly delayed but they didn't necessarily agree that Elijah was on the autism spectrum. After all, he could give eye contact and he had some skills that were uncharacteristic of the diagnosis.
But, in my heart, I really felt that Elijah had autism. We brought him to the Fraser Center and he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS--a diagnosis under the autism umbrella. It was clear that Elijah has skills that are way above normal--at 18 months, he knew all of his numbers, letters, colors and shapes. And yet, he had not started to speak. But there were also many skills that were very delayed or absent in coming.
Now, Elijah is almost 3 1/2 and he still is not talking and we wanted to get a medical perspective on his unique delays. I wanted to go into that office and hear the doctor say that I was wrong. Sometimes you know too much about a diagnosis, and I was hoping that I was just reading into the signs I was seeing. I wanted him to tell me that Elijah was just delayed from his frequent hospitilizations and that he would catch up. I never wanted to be wrong so much in my life.
The doctor looked at Elijah and said "this kid is autistic." No long drawn out testing needed to be done as it had already been done and the signs all pointed to this diagnosis.
What is different now that we have an official diagnosis? Nothing and everything. Does it change how we feel about Elijah and have we lost our dreams for future for him? Not a chance. Does it help us as we advocate for his educational needs? Yes. Does it change how we have been educating him at home? No. Having a diagnosis does not stop me from searching for "answers" as to why this little guy is wired so differently, but it does help me to close a chapter and move onto to another one in his life.
Now, I want to focus on all that makes this child who happens to have autism unique and gifted in the eyes of God. Now I am no longer going to be searching for the similarities of a group of kids they call "autistic" but I am going to strive to see the uniqueness of my son no matter what. Just because I have sought out a diagnosis for my child, it will not define who he is. I will not let that happen. I will celebrate the unique differences that my child holds and I will never, ever stop believing that God has created this little one for his glory. I will never stop remembering that my sweet Elijah was fearfully and wonderfully made.