When we found out that our little girl had autism we weren’t surprised. But just because we weren’t surprised didn’t mean there was no shock. I think going into it, we half expected to be told that she didn't have autism and that she just had a minor speech delay. No matter our expectations, the shock hit me in a way I wasn't expecting.
The signs we saw that, you could say, brought concern, were not obvious. When we took her in to be assessed (by the educational organization we decided to pursue), they even said they weren't sure. She made great eye contact and interacted really well with others, but then there would be moments where she would totally shut off and keep to herself with no way for us to disrupt or enter her world.
Her speech delay was the predominant problem. We went to this corporation that we were told could help specifically with speech and development. In that process, I confided in them and told them my concerns for autism. They referred us to a psychologist and he evaluated her and asked us questions. At the end, he said she was high functioning, but needed help in speech and behavior.
Driving home that day, there were a lot of emotions I felt. But the emotions didn't come all at once. An emotion would hit me like a ton of bricks, and then quickly become overpowered by the next. At first, I felt strong and courageous. Because really it could be so much worse! And like the psychologist had told us, 'it wasn’t a surprise'. So there was no reason to be surprised! I felt like we could do this! Maybe she could even grow out of it. Once she learned to communicate then the behavior would take care of it self! For sure!
But then doubt crept in. I started feeling a little more confused. Maybe she didn’t have autism and it was all in my head. Maybe I am being too sensitive and she is just being a toddler. And how a I supposed to know anyways because she is my first and I don’t know any different. But then, I realized I had to accept that it could be the truth. That she could have autism, that it couldn't just fix itself, that we would have to work at it and that her path would be different than other children. Once that hit me, I felt guilt.
Guilt was the one that hit me the hardest. It knocked the air out of me and suddenly I couldn't breathe. Maybe this was my fault. I’m not perfect and I make mistakes. What if it was a mistake I made in my pregnancy that caused this? What if it was before my pregnancy? What if we pushed the labor too soon and it caused problems? Or what if it was something that happened after she was born? What if it was something I could have prevented? That’s where I started to breakdown.
I told my husband this, but I kept most of it to myself. When I keep things to myself (which I do a lot), I am telling myself to just figure it out on my own and that I should be able to figure it out on my own. I take the whole world on my shoulders and beat myself up when I can’t follow through and do it all. Well, this is what was happening. I was falling apart, but only on the inside. I had little people to take care of, and I couldn’t afford to let it show.
But as we know... the sh*t eventually hits the fan and I finally I broke down. I saw a counselor and she opened my eyes. She brought faith and light back into my life instantly and helped me see that I didn’t have to do this on my own. That I am not a failure. That I have done the best I know how to do and that I have the ability to continue to do the best I know how to do. That I have others I can rely on for support and I need to not worry about what others think of me, my parenting style, or my daughter.
Now, I’m not saying I have figured all this out and now I’m great at it all! Oh no!! I still need to be reminded and I still need to be set in my place. But these lessons have been written down and recorded so I will try to not forget them again! It is vital to my success to remember these things.
Currently, we have her enrolled in a special needs preschool that she attends everyday. The teachers are incredible and she is loving it! She is speaking more, listening more, answering to her name, using more sign language, and even engaging more with the other kids! I have learned a ton too! We are both growing in this process and as we grown and learn we are growing closer together. It is the most incredible experience I have ever been through.
Whether you believe in God, the universe, or another higher power, I believe we are not alone. I believe there is help given to us during this lifetime. I believe this power guides us and is with us (especially) during times of trial. I also believe times of trial are for our own good. These times of hardships are experiences that we must go through to help us become a stronger and better person, and they are given to us to help strengthen the relationships we have with those around us. I am grateful for this power and for the help I have been given along this journey so far. I can't imagine doing this on my own.
Someone told me that after getting news like this you, go through the grieving process. I agree with the idea that it can be compared to the grieving process, because I am mourning the child I thought I had, but in reality she is so much more than I imagined or could have expected! She is so much more sensitive and kind that I imagined her to be. She is more beautiful than I imagined her to be and she is wickedly intelligent, beyond what I can even comprehend. She is an angel straight from heaven. And in reality, we haven't lost anything. We have gained (and continue to gain) so much more. So many blessings. So much experience. And so much love.