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To the Mom Who's Scared of an Autism Diagnosis for Your Child

Dear mom who’s scared of an autism diagnosis for your child,

I get it. I’ve been there, too.

I told myself he would “grow out of it.” He didn’t.  My friends told me it was “just a boy thing.” But it wasn’t. I chalked up our challenges to his prematurity, to the fact that he is a twin.

I get it. An autism diagnosis can feel scary at first. You’re worried about what people will think of him. You’re worried about labels and stigmas, and the fact that what you know about autism at this point doesn’t match what you know about your child.

Your child is special, amazing, unique. But he also faces challenges that can be confusing and sometimes exhausting to you. It can be hard to chase, coax, soothe, please and defend when you walk out the door, enter a store, introduce a new food or visit a relative’s house.

Dear, dear mama — hear me now.

You are a good mom.

You are a good mom because you are trying.

You are a good mom because you are worrying and wondering.

You are a good mom because you are seeking answers, even if the answers might scare you at first.

I was scared, too, so for a long time, I ignored it; I hoped he would “grow out of it.” I forced myself to be “better” so he would be “better,” too. But things only got more confusing because I couldn’t explain away his behavior anymore, not to my family, or to friends, or to myself.

So I took the leap and sought professional help for the answer. And it came: autism.

It crushed me and put me back together all at the same time. It suddenly all made sense; all the pieces that were simultaneously foreign and familiar.

They fit.

I finally had a name for everything we had been experiencing for eight years.

And you know what? My son — my beautiful, funny, loving, quirky son — didn’t change because we got the diagnosis. He was autistic all along. We just didn’t have the words to explain our reality.

But when we did, when we knew the word and accepted the word and said the word — autism — things changed.

It was the key to open the doors we needed to get help for our son, and for us too. Autism opened the doors to therapy, to counseling, to school support. But even more than that, it opened the doors to understanding, to compassion, to greater patience, to better parenting.

It helped me accept my son… and myself.

I wasn’t a bad parent. And neither are you. I was just scared. I know you are, too.

But here’s the truth: autism may not have been the path you would have chosen before, but if your child is autistic, you’re already on it.

Right now, you’re in the dark. But a diagnosis turns on the lights. It’s blinding for a little while, but then? You’ll be able to see.

You’ll be able see your child for who he really is, with all his gifts and challenges, his possibilities and potential.

You’ll see yourself more clearly too, more gracefully and tenderly.

And you’ll be able to see where you end and where others begin.

Seeking a diagnosis is a big step. It can feel huge and scary. The truth always is. But you can do it. You can take this step. Because you’re a good mom, and all good moms are brave.

Wishing you all the love, peace, and joy in the world, because you have so much good in store for you,
A mom of an autistic child

Image via Thinkstock Images

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