We walked into the doctor’s office early that morning. Grasshopper once again had a tough time sleeping the night before. He laid down on the floor to try to sleep some more. I told him he could lay down on the couch but he didn’t want to. The doctor smiled, looked at me and explained that he wasn’t the first child to sleep on her floor and proceeded to offer him a pillow. My muscles instantly relaxed, which is something that doesn’t happen often. We were in a safe place where I didn’t have to try to reign in bazaar behaviors. Then we sat down to review the results of the latest round of screenings. I was being told my son meets the criteria for Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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Not Surprised With Autism Diagnosis

I wasn’t really surprised by my son’s diagnosis. It’s been on a long journey these past few years searching for answers that offer some explanations. We knew there was something that set Grasshopper apart from his peers. We just needed to pinpoint what that was.

Since special needs parenting isn’t new to me, my life was already filled with people I could talk to about the possibility of Grasshopper being autistic. Before we even met the doctor for the first time I was able to ask questions to occupational therapists and special education teachers. I had a pretty good idea of what to expect before going in for the assessment.

My biggest fear with having Grasshopper evaluated for autism was that the doctor wouldn’t see what we see. So I went into that first appointment armed with a list of autistic type tendencies Grasshopper does. The list was almost 60 items long. In hindsight that might have been overkill because she saw things that I didn’t even see. I mean she’s the expert, not me!

Before she even said the words “he has autism spectrum disorder” I knew. Mentally, I was prepared and ready to hear those words. Of course there is still a part of me that’s sad. I mean I’m not excited that my son has autism, but I’m excited for the answers the diagnosis brings.

The Diagnosis Brings Relief

I realize that many parents might be shocked and go through a period of denial when their child is diagnosed with something like autism. I’ll admit that it was probably easier for me to hear simply because special needs parenting isn’t new for me. That being said, if you’re reading this and can’t relate to the relief I felt by the diagnosis, don’t feel bad. It’s perfectly normal to be in a state of shock or disbelief when you’re child is first diagnosed. I was there when Ladybug was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. It’s part of the grieving cycle we all need to go through.

For me, the diagnosis meant we finally had answers. If you’ve been following me for a while now, you already know that Grasshopper had previously been diagnosed with ADHD, dyslexia, and anxiety. As he continued to get older however, we knew there there was something else setting him apart. For me, learning he has autism means I can start to fit the pieces together. Finally, we know the underlying reason behind so many things he does.

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One of the biggest aspects of relief I feel with the diagnosis is that I now have confirmation that his behaviors (meltdowns, rigidity, lack of emotional regulation to name a few) are not a reflection on my parenting. Friends, this is huge. All of the stares at the grocery stores, judgmental questions about my parenting from professionals, comments under people’s breath, all of it made me feel like an inferior mother who was screwing up her son. It’s a relief to know it isn’t my parenting, it’s autism. I cannot tell you how liberating it feels to say that.

Our Plan Moving Forward

So now what? That’s the million dollar question right!

We love everything about Grasshopper and our goal isn’t to change him. He is kind, smart, compassionate, and autistic. It’s part of who he is, and we embrace him for who he is. Of course we will work on helping him with communication and social behaviors, but those are skill sets every parent helps their child with. It just looks a little different for a child with autism.

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We are also in the process of getting a dog as a therapeutic pet. We’ve done a lot of research on the benefits of a therapy dog for autistic kids and I hope everything I’ve read will be the case for our family! Of course, that’s a story for another day.

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