The Question People Don't Ask Out Loud About My Child's Autism Diagnosis


Sometimes the question that doesn’t get asked comes up when we’re in a public place and we need an accommodation, or when we’re explaining something we are or are not doing.

Sometimes the question that doesn’t get asked comes up when we’re at social events and people meet my son for the first time. They will ask me about where he goes to school, what grade he’s in and the kinds of things he likes to do.

Eventually we get to a point in the conversation where I mention he’s on the autism spectrum.

They will pause the conversation for a moment. They will look at him and see a child who doesn’t look different from any other child, who may not be behaving out of the ordinary. Then they look at me, and sometimes I see the question in their eyes:

“Isn’t autism just a fad diagnosis — the diagnosis du jour so that schools and parents don’t have to do their jobs?”

To be honest, I wasn’t entirely convinced when his school first suggested he might be on the autism spectrum. But we knew he was struggling in class, and his father and I were struggling at home.

I knew we had tried different parenting and discipline techniques, talking with friends and teachers, reading books, doing Internet research and making little progress in teaching our son social interaction skills, manners, conversation skills and basic discipline.

If the school wanted to “label” him to give him extra attention and tailored help with things he struggled with, that was fine with us. Then we got the private diagnosis from a neuropsychologist. Then I started doing research.

Once we learned about autism spectrum disorder and how it was manifesting in our son, the accuracy of the diagnosis became clear. It was no longer a question of an unwarranted label on our son, but an informed awareness of an actual existing disorder and his unique developmental needs.

No one has ever asked me the unasked question, and if someone did actually ask me about autism as a fad or trendy diagnosis, my answer would be this:

No, autism is not a fad diagnosis. It is a complex and nuanced disorder, which means each person on the autism spectrum manifests it differently. You can’t always tell who has autism when you meet them and “when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”

Autism feels “trendy” because experts and professionals have learned so much over the last decade that it’s now being talked about a lot more than it ever was. But being talked about a lot doesn’t make the diagnosis incorrect.

An autism diagnosis doesn’t mean schools and parents aren’t doing their jobs — it means they can do their jobs in the right way, the way that actually works and brings success for the child.

Yes, my son has autism.

Follow this journey on Autism Mom.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share one question people are afraid to ask about your experience with disability and disease. What’s the answer? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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