I was first diagnosed with autism nearly four years ago at the age of 22. I started to figure it out when I was about 14. That was when I realized I had been having trouble in school the past few years, although not academically. I identified eye contact as difficult and uncomfortable and began to realize how much I disliked being touched. I realized how much I was bothered by little sounds that no one else seemed to notice. I remember going to a brand new high school and saying that the lights were loud and no one voiced their agreement. I remember the stress I would feel when the bell would go off to switch classes. It wasn’t the bell that bothered me as much as the impending overwhelming walk through the hallways that would take me most of the next class to recover from.
It didn’t get better in college. With stress, my symptoms and experiences continued to intensify. Away from the comforts of home and small-town family connections, I struggled. I remember taking one of those Facebook quizzes. It was something like, “Are you autistic?” I scored very high. I would get so anxious with the start of a new semester because of the new routine that came with it. I loved my routine and hated any change that came. About the time I would get used to my new routine, it would be a new semester. I’d sit in a corner and rock for as long as I could.
Finally, after I graduated college, my new psychiatrist mentioned autism. I did more in-depth research and realized that I identified strongly with this diagnosis, as opposed to some of the others I had been given.
A few months ago, I met a new psychologist who put me through a battery of tests to confirm the autism diagnosis. It was confirmed along with a couple other diagnoses.
In the two years between my first diagnosis and my confirmed diagnosis, my parents said very little on the subject. Despite my identification with and acceptance of the diagnosis and my siblings’ acceptance of autism, my parents seemed to disagree. Even after my mom met the new psychologist, I got the same vibe. A couple weeks ago, my dad called after attending a continuing education session on autism. He said he was sorry.
He said that he got it and that he was sorry they had missed it but that he saw it now. He said he wished they had been able to provide the appropriate support that I needed. He also said that he was even more proud of me now that he understood I was autistic, because of everything I had done without the help of my parents.
When I hung up the phone after talking to my dad, I cried for a while. I don’t cry often, but I could do nothing else with the overwhelming relief I felt knowing that my dad finally got it. My dad agrees with the diagnosis now. He accepts my autism diagnosis and loves and accepts me for who I am. He is proud of me. Since that phone call, I have felt so much lighter. I didn’t realize the weight I was carrying as a result of my parents’ lack of acceptance.
So for others with autism looking for your parents’ acceptance: Don’t give up. Be you, believe in yourself, and believe that you are deserving of the support and accommodation you need to make it through the daily demands of this foreign world.
For parents who don’t believe their child or adult child has autism: Listen to your child first and the medical professionals second. You may think that you are the only expert on your child, but the reality is that your child might be the expert, and you the invaluable assistant. Your child has likely felt your disapproval and has certainly felt a lack of belonging in this world. There is no shame in an autism diagnosis. Your child wants nothing more than your love, acceptance and support.
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