I Don’t Know Whether My Son Has Autism or Not, But These Are the Things I Do Know About Him


I see a lot of stories on here about autism spectrum disorder. I get it, I do. I know that if you have a child who is diagnosed you want to share their triumphs and tears and it helps to know you’re not alone.

But I have a feeling I am alone. So many people talk about their 2, 3 and 4-year-olds having autism. My son will be 4 next week. I don’t know what he is. I know he has a speech delay. I know his fine and gross motor skills are excellent. I know his vocabulary is about 100 words, maximum. I know he swats at his sister when she snatches his toy and runs off with it. I know my son smiles, and laughs, cries and likes plastic animals.

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What I don’t know is whether he has autism. I’ve thought about seeing a doctor, a specialist or someone in the school district to find out. I’ve discussed it at length with my husband, my mother, my sister, my friends. I’ve looked up information online, I’ve bought books, I’ve had one-on-one conversations with parents of children with autism.

I want my son to be 4. I don’t want him to be labeled, and boxed, and to have every tiny movement be defined by a word or a diagnosis. I don’t want to excuse his behavior or rejoice in it because we found out what makes Nolan just Nolan. Especially not this young.

A diagnosis will be with him for the rest of his life; there is no rush for us to get a piece of paper with a word someone needs to hear to explain him. He gets services because of his delay. More services than he needs– we scaled back his speech therapy because it wasn’t working and forcing a 3-year-old to spend upwards of 6 hours a day on “academics” is ridiculous. He needs to be able to be a child. He needs to be able to find his voice, even if he’s not using words. He needs to know that mom and dad will let him find his own way without a pigeon-holed existence.

It has its challenges. When people meet Nolan, and he acts more like he’s 2 than 4, they’re confused. I say: he has a developmental delay, so he doesn’t talk much. They don’t get it. They stare at me, or stare at him, and wonder why he isn’t like every other 4-year-old they’ve met. Its tricky, and its heartbreaking at times. But I know that simply defining Nolan for other people isn’t what’s best of him or us.

I’m proud of my son. I’m even proud of his impairments, because it shows he’s thinking, he’s evolving, he’s finding ways to adapt in the world around him. I applaud all of you for your work with, and love for, your children. Let’s step back for a moment sometimes and not let a diagnosis define them, but let them do that for themselves.

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