I Had Questions After Her Autism Diagnosis. One Answer Stood Out.


This week we received a diagnosis of autism for our daughter, Jenna. Last year it was ADHD, the year before ear problems and before this hearing issues.

This has been a five-year journey of experimentation, failings, labels and stereotypical comments. She’s been labelled “naughty, loud, weird,” and we were constantly told by her school: “You need to get her checked out,” “There is something wrong with her” and “Have you considered testing?”

Glasses prescribed, hearing tested, IQ tested, and so on, with each specialist sending detailed reports on how to help her.

But still the label “naughty, misfit, failure, loud” were how people viewed her.

We just know her as Jenna.

This week as I sat and pondered what this diagnosis means to us as a family and to me as a dad, I was at a loss.

After I felt like I got it wrong for the past five years, I asked myself these questions:

  • Did that lesson my abilities as a Dad?
  • I missed the signs for Jen; what else have I missed?
  • What did I do wrong?
  • Why did I miss all the signals?

I soon got over myself and came to this understanding: the girl I know as Jenna is still the girl I adore.

As I began the road to discovery, I began asking myself, and for that matter anyone who would listen, these questions:

  • Where does she fit on the spectrum?
  • What have I missed?
  • What treatment is needed?
  • What do I need to change?
  • Have I made the problem worse?
  • How do I shut up the skeptics?
  • How do I embrace her uniqueness?
  • Does she need “the label”?

Putting all the rules, diagnosis, stigma, and people’s comment aside, I can come to a conclusion: Jenna is Jenna, and Jenna can be Jenna, and no label will change that I love my Jenna.

She is unique and different, and honestly, will likely find it difficult to fit into cultural norms for a long time. The diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can’t change that.

I can’t change my daughter not being able to read social cues correctly.

I can’t change the fact that creating friends might continue to be a challenge for her.

I can’t change her being the most literal person I have ever met.

But…

Jenna is Jenna, and Jenna can be Jenna, and no label will change that I love my Jenna.

If I could make a wish and dream big for Jenna, it would be very simple: I want people to value her, laugh with her and embrace her uniqueness.

Just like every one of my four children, she has the potential for greatness. A potential to change the world. I just pray that everyone, like myself, sees the greatness that is my 9-year-old ASD kid — or as we know her at home, Jenna.

A version of this post originally appeared on My ASD Princess.

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