I cried the day we were given the diagnosis. (Castle reacted by having the worst behavioral day of his entire life.) Whether they admit it or not, all parents mourn the child they thought they had, the one they had hoped to raise before the diagnosis. No matter how we much we try to convince ourselves otherwise, autism is not a gift. Our children are gifts, but their symptoms are not. Autism’s not a curse, not exactly, but it’s not a positive thing. You hope your kid is smart. You don’t hope he’ll have social, speech, and/or developmental impairments. Autism is the monster hiding under every crib. It’s devastating when it jumps out and claims your kid.
My husband and I are lucky that our only child has a high-functioning form of PDD-NOS. I once read a joke that PDD stands for “Pediatrician Didn’t Decide,” and for us that describes our experience with the autism label – a vague diagnosis that has left us with more questions than answers. How is our son different? Will he improve? What does this label mean for his future?
We still don’t know all the answers, but he’s made some amazing progress. Every day, Castle gets up, dresses himself, and goes to preschool – either the special school for children with speech pathology issues or the one run through his therapists’ practice. He spends three hours a week in speech therapy and two hours in occupational therapy.
Then, six weeks after going gluten free, Castle went from a vocabulary of twenty words to closer to one hundred. One year after diagnosis, our three and a half year old plays with other children in age-appropriate ways, makes eye contact, is potty-trained, and is better at the iPad than his parents. He has full language comprehension and expressively communicates on the same level as the average two/two and a half year old. He’s also stubborn and lies when he’s in trouble. He resents the attention younger kids receive and is very territorial.
But, he’s my kid, and I love him, no questions asked.