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Why I Refuse to Fear Negative Predictions About My Son With Autism

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Recently I was accepted into a healthcare study by the NHS. I’d been experiencing chronic back pain since being pregnant with my son, and six years on I still hadn’t managed to improve it. I met with the researchers and the first thing they asked was, “What have you been told about your back pain by healthcare professionals?” So I told them the following:

  • I needed to learn how to walk again as my posture was lopsided
  • My left side was significantly weaker than my right
  • If I felt any pain at all I had to stop what I was doing and sit down
  • That I was only allowed to exercise on certain machines for certain lengths of time
  • That the muscles in the base if my back aren’t working at all
  • I could go on, I’ve been told a lot of stuff over the years by various professionals.

The researchers smiled and said, “What if I told you that all of that is wrong and that research over the last five years has proven that what we think we know about back pain is completely wrong?” I laughed. Nothing surprises me when it comes to my back anymore.

They assessed my posture and my walking style, told me to relax and not to constantly try and hold in my core muscles (like I had been told to). They told me I could exercise when I want and most importantly (and this is the big one), not to fear the pain. I felt like I had been freed.

It’s been a week since that appointment and I’ve been running and done a body balance video at home. When I have felt pain I have acknowledged it and moved on. I haven’t had such little back pain in years.

It got me thinking about what I had been told about my son around the time of his diagnosis. Specifically, I remember, “he may never talk,” “he may never be toilet trained,” “he may never work” etc. This information, this supposed “prognosis” sent me spiraling for a little while. I was devastated by all these predictions about what my son would supposedly never do. But then something changed in me, and the devastation became determination. How on earth could anyone tell me what my son couldn’t do before he was anywhere near old enough for us to have any idea what he was capable of? All it did was fill us with fear. Fear of what he wouldn’t achieve. Fear of everything he wouldn’t do.

Like the fear of my back pain, fear drives us to avoid activities we just can’t face. It makes us look for alternative solutions (I have spent thousands trying to get my back fixed). Painting an autism diagnosis in such negative terms does nothing other than take away hope and a positive attitude that your child will achieve amazing things, no matter how small. It drives people to find a cure for something that doesn’t need curing. Autism simply requires a shift in mindset, some acceptance and an ability to see the beauty in something a little different.

Don’t be like me with my back and waste years of your life trying to solve a problem that doesn’t actually exist simply because a healthcare professional has told you so.

Getty image by Ruslanshug.

Originally published: December 27, 2019
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