What Happened When I Started Telling People About My Son's Autism Diagnosis


My son, Julian, was diagnosed with autism about six months ago. Julian was born prematurely, spent six weeks in the NICU, and has been in therapy ever since. He is nonverbal with a global developmental delay. He’s seen multiple doctors and specialists in his short four years here on earth. Needless to say, we weren’t shocked when the doctor gave us the results of his autism testing.

When I first started researching Julian’s condition, Facebook’s algorithm started directing every autism related advertisement to my newsfeed. There were shirts I could wear, shirts Julian could wear, puzzle bracelets, bumper stickers — the list goes on.

Honestly, I was bothered by the idea of telling complete strangers that my son has autism. I didn’t have a bumper sticker with my older son’s asthma diagnosis. I didn’t wear a bracelet displaying my own ADHD diagnosis. Why would I want a shirt telling people Julian has autism?

As the weeks have gone by, and new situations have arisen, I’ve started telling more and more people about Julian’s diagnosis. I even started writing about my family’s “new normal” on my blog.

Some surprising things that happened when I started opening up:

1. I’ve learned so much more about autism.

At Julian’s official diagnosis appointment, his doctor gave me a pamphlet; instructed me to find an ABA therapist and sent me on my way. I felt overwhelmed, lost and alone. So I joined a couple support groups online. As it turns out, “autism moms” (and dads) are some of the best resources out there. Many of these parents have been at it for years, following the latest medical advancements and finding alternative therapies. And thankfully, they are more than willing to share their knowledge with newcomers like me.

 

2. I’ve found a new community. 

When I first started researching the best therapies for Julian, I felt like I was on an island. I felt isolated. None of my friends had children with autism, so I thought I was going to have to take this particular journey alone. But the more I reached out, I found people who were traveling similar paths. I even found myself offering help to people who are just starting to take the first steps with their child on the spectrum. The simple feeling of community has helped me tremendously.

3. I’ve met some amazing people. 

Once I started to tell my family’s story, other people began telling me their stories. I’ve talked with people who I ordinarily would have never met — and not just from the autism community. I’ve gotten to know families with children who have rare diseases and newly-discovered conditions. They’ve told me stories of heartache and strength, of sorrow and triumph. I am grateful for their testimonies and continue to be in awe of their courage.

Opening up about Julian’s condition wasn’t easy. But I’ve found great value in the connections I’ve made and the help I’ve been given. Maybe those puzzle bracelets and t-shirts aren’t just to spread awareness. They might just be a way to let others know they aren’t alone in their journey — a reminder that autism parents are everywhere, ready to help you whenever you decide to reach out.

Follow this Journey at Not an Autism Mom

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

TOPICS
, , Contributor list
JOIN THE CONVERSATION

Related to Autism Spectrum Disorder

Affirmations for J.L.'s children.

The Words I Want My Autistic Daughter to Remember as School Begins

All my children are getting ready to return to school. Two of my children love school, but for my middle daughter who is autistic, school is a very stressful place. She is now 12 and entering the second year of her secondary education. Her best friend from her class moved away this summer, so she [...]
Photo from Atypical Trailer of Sam sitting on a bus.

What I'd Like to See in Season 2 of 'Atypical' as a Viewer on the Autism Spectrum

A new Netflix series, “Atypical,” recently premiered. It looks at Sam Gardener, a teen with autism. It depicts his navigation through high school, trying to find a relationship and other aspects of his journey. The series has recently been renewed for a second season! As someone who binge watched Season 1 and is excited for [...]
Red and blue flashing lights of police car.

We Must Do More to Educate Law Enforcement About Autism

Autism and police. These two words alone may not sound worrisome, but for autistic individuals and their loved ones, those words together can strike terror in our hearts. A recently released Arizona police officer’s body cam video of an incident with a young autistic teenager named Connor has been filling up social media streams as [...]
Boy in wheat field.

When People Say 'He Doesn’t Look Autistic'

“I never would have known he has autism!” “He doesn’t look autistic!” “But he’s so cute.” “He’s ‘high-functioning,‘ right?” These are some of the many statements that have been said to me over the years about my son. I never know what to say, I’m not sure whether or not I should be offended. I [...]