The day we met Irina we knew. I loved her immediately, we knew she was our daughter, and yet fear bubbled up in my heart. Autism. It was at the top of my list of "can't handle" diagnoses. Autism. I whispered in my heart, "God, I'm scared. I think she's Autistic". If we had known in advance, I'm not sure I would have been brave enough to proceed. God knew that. That night, I finally summed up the courage to say it out loud to my husband, "I think Irina has......Autism". He simply responded, "I know. It will be okay." End of conversation. We proceeded with Irina's adoption, and a year later we accepted the "formal" diagnosis of Autism by our trusted Developmental Pediatrician. I had officially entered new and unfamiliar territory.
I want to be clear, I do not regret for one second that we adopted Irina. I love this little girl with a fierceness I can't even describe. But, it has been hard in ways I could never have imagined. There are worries and challenges I have never previously experienced with any of our other children. Somedays we rejoice at the amazing progress she has made, and the milestones she has met and surpassed. Somedays I cry. Hard. Somedays Autism makes me feel like a failure as a mom. Most days I wish it wasn't a challenge that Irina (and our family) has to face.
This week we took our son for a follow up appointment with the Developmental Pediatrician. He sees his doctor on a regular basis for his ADHD and Down syndrome diagnoses, but we had some specific concerns regarding his development and behavior. The doctor spent three hours evaluating Luke and discussing our concerns. We are scheduling some more testing/evaluating, but I knew at the end she was going to say that her concern was Autism.
The drive home from the appointment, I was a little surprised about how fine I felt. Maybe hearing "autism" for a second child was easier to accept? It wasn't until hours later that it hit me like a ton of bricks, and I felt my knees might buckle and the tears flowed. I don't love my son any less, and he is the same little boy he was days ago, but it's hard to explain the weight of an Autism diagnosis. It is a hard road to travel.
Maybe you are facing a potential Autism diagnosis for your child? Maybe you just have concerns that your child's development is tracking toward ASD. I guess I just want to say you aren't alone. It's not an easy thing to hear. It doesn't change "who" your child is, but it does set you on a new path. Autism is a road that isn't easy to travel, but one that I can assure you that you will not travel alone. I am no Autism expert. I'm still trying to find my way. I am just a fellow traveler, but I understand. Feel free to contact me if you need someone to talk to.