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I Didn't Know About Autism Before My Son Was Diagnosed

My son’s name is Joaquin, his name means “God will determine.”

For many years, I believed motherhood was not in the cards for me, but in 2008 I happily discovered I was pregnant. My pregnancy was perfect in every way , my son was a perfect gift.

When he was 4 weeks, Joaquin had surgery for pyloric stenosis, an abnormality of the lower stomach muscle that caused him to reject all oral feedings. At 2 years of age, he had eye surgery to correct a squint, without it, his vision would have been severely affected. I thought those were enough challenges.

In 2013, at 5 years of age, he was refused admission to several primary level schools. The explanations were vague, and I was completely stunned. These schools were saying he wasn’t ready. But this was the same child who was talking in full sentences at 14 months, knew his alphabet at 16 months and could count to 20 by 18 months. What exactly did they expect from him?

On our 11th attempt at a primary school, a single question changed our lives: “Has anyone ever suggested to you that your son may be autistic?” I was devastated. I considered myself to be reasonably educated, but I knew nothing about autism. I ignorantly thought anyone with autism was below average intelligence and unable to speak. So why was someone now suggesting he was autistic? What were they seeing that I was missing?

And slowly, the signs emerged. The little things that I thought were unique to his circumstances were the glaring signs that had been right in front of me. But I simply didn’t know any better.

1. Joaquin rarely made eye contact. I thought this was as a result of his eye surgery.

2. He always disliked people in his personal space. Hugs were a very rare occurrence and often reserved for the most loved people in his life.

3. His need for routine — when he woke up each morning, he took 15 minutes to watch cartoons, then he used the washroom and brushed his teeth. He had two toothbrushes: a Spiderman toothbrush and an Ironman toothbrush, and they had to be alternated every day. Then breakfast and dressing for school. Whenever something happened to disrupt the pattern, his struggled to cope. I thought he was acting out. It never occurred to me it was something more.

4. Three straight years of hearing about nothing other than Lightning Mc Queen — gift buying was easy so I never questioned anything.

5. Toy cars in line… and don’t you dare take one out of sequence!

For over a year, I blamed myself. Obviously, if I was a better mother I would’ve known. But the reality was, I didn’t know any better. I didn’t know a single autistic person, and at that point, I don’t think I had even interacted with one.

To the mom or dad reading this and you’ve just gotten your little one’s diagnosis and wondering, as I did, if you’re at fault…the answer is no!

If you’re confused and overwhelmed by the deluge of information out there, know that this is not an illness or a disease. It’s simply a different way of processing. And in time, things will start to make more sense. Know that there will be good days, and not so good days, but there is a community of us who understand and will always support you and encourage you.

Follow this journey at Autism to Yoga.

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