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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Our Second Child Was Diagnosed, And I Lived To Tell About It.

"He tends to perseverate on the topic of tornadoes," the kindergarten teacher told me several years ago during the parent-teacher conference for our younger son. "He seems to find great comfort in them; but his interest goes beyond the interest of a typical child."

This wasn't any news to me.

Then the mother of a nonverbal seven-year-old diagnosed with autism, I somehow found myself to also be the parent of the chattiest five-year-old this planet had ever seen. Where language development was concerned, in my house, it was apparently all or nothing.

The lack of language in Big Brother? Yes, I knew that it was a problem. Yet, I never once thought that the presence of too many words in Little Brother could also signal a problem. I thought our kindergartner was a genius.

However, rearing a genius was exhausting.

Little Brother spewed facts about tornadoes at me from the moment he woke in the morning until the moment he went to bed at night. The topic of severe weather made my head hurt. I loved the day he started school. It was a time in my life that I will always remember as respite from discussing the weather with my child.

I watched his teacher that morning as she searched for the right words.

"Transitions seem to be...difficult...for him," she continued. "I think he should get an evaluation."

Oh no, not again.

Perseveration. Difficulty with transitions. Evaluation. Those words were all headed toward that one word that changed the direction of my husband's and my life forever:  autism.

Once young, naive parents with a toddler in crisis, my husband and I first heard these words from countless professionals with regard to our older son.  We were new to the world of child development, and we simply were not prepared for that fateful day when a developmental psychologist told us that our first born child  had autism.

Little Brother was five weeks old when Big Brother was diagnosed.

From that moment forward, with a shattered heart and tears in my eyes, I dedicated countless hours each day in an effort to bring our older son out of his autism, all the while, I watched my newborn intently for any signs of poor development.

Did he look me in the eyes?
Was he sociable?
How was his motor development?

I asked questions of the various professionals who came in and out of our home on a daily basis. All of my questions were answered with, "He's fine. He's nothing like his brother. Relax."

Years passed and our younger son grew. His words developed at an astonishing rate. Certainly, he was not his brother; and yet, if anything at all seemed slightly amiss with his development, my heart would race, my stomach would feel sick, and I would immediately think: Oh no, not again.

Oh no, not again.

It's the fear of every parent who has a child diagnosed with autism. Will our other children, too, be diagnosed? When will it happen? Now? Next year? When is it safe to exhale?

At the conclusion of the parent-teacher conference that day in our younger son's kindergarten classroom, I wasn't convinced that we were to welcome autism into our lives a second time. However, a year later, when he was still struggling to survive in his first grade class, there was no denying it.

It was at that point when my 'not again' moment turned into more of a 'once again' moment. That was the day that Little Brother began to benefit from the path that Big Brother set us on so many years ago.

Months later, my husband and I sat across from the neuropsychologist who conducted our younger son's evaluation as she carefully and hesitantly tried to tell us what we already knew: our second child also had autism.

We heard this news, and our lives weren't shattered.  With a few more years of experience under our belt, we were able to see that the diagnosis gave us answers and a path forward. In truth, we were relieved.  After all those years of fearing this moment, it wasn't so bad when it actually happened.

It's funny how a little knowledge and understanding can wipe away your fears.

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This entry was written in response to a prompt issued by The Group Blogging Experience (#GBE2): Oh no, not again.  #autism #aspergers #siblings of #ASD

6 comments:

  1. Very nicely written! It takes a special parent to raise a special needs child, and an exceptional spouse. You have been graced. thank you for allowing us a few moments of insight into your world.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by to read. I know that takes some time, and I really do appreciate it. :)

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  2. I can feel your fear and ultimately your relief as I read these words and hear your voice in them. I find the relief completely understandable and welcome. Name it, treat it, work without boundaries to help him be all he can be.

    Another example of how you and R handle life as it comes with such grace, usually! lol

    And by grace I mean, accepting there really is no other path that leads forward. Life is what it is and you both do what needs to be done and then find more to do.

    That time in your life was, no doubt, difficult, but like always, you moved on and look where you are now.

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    1. Ohhhh, the quiet whispers that happen among autism moms as the siblings are developing! "Do you think he's playing appropriately?" "Look at this, do you think I should be worried?"

      I don't think you ever fully breathe easily while they are coming into their own, but the concern is compounded when autism is in the family.

      Little Brother was born into the right household. We certainly know our way around special needs.

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  3. I bet he is a wiz in science class. I also find tornadoes fascinating! There is so much hope. I listen to the media reports that are coming out about autism and I am hopeful that they will find answers for your boys and for so many others.

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    1. Science is his thing, you are right about that! lol!

      What I enjoy is this age of social media where children much like our older, low verbal, son are able use their technology to type their thoughts to the world. I've read so many encouraging words from teens and adults like my son. I am hopeful as well.

      I believe that our younger son will be fine. His social skills need some spit-polishing. He doesn't learn the way that conventional schooling measures intelligence/success. That is our hurdle right now. But, in the end and with a lot of work, I think he'll be ok.

      Thank you for your comments!

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