Have you ever wondered if your child is autistic?
It takes a professional to make an autism diagnosis. However, we have completed the process in two countries and talked with professionals in four different cultures and languages. Therefore, I can tell you that parent input is crucial to the diagnosis. You will be filling out many questionnaires and talking to many professionals. Your relationship with your child and your knowledge of their history is irreplaceable. Your observations and experiences are central.
To get a feel for some of the defining moments of our journey, read my post The Social Circle.
But the traits don’t match
My son was not diagnosed with autism until he was around ten years old. Sometimes I wondered about the possibility of autism. However, I kept hearing about traits like autistic people being unaffectionate or having delayed language skills. Our son was always a cuddly member of the family, and he spoke three languages, mine with finesse.
The idea that autistic people are not supposed to understand humor confuses me to this day. It’s true my son often has a deadpan delivery. Only a sideways mischievous glint in his eye when he thinks you aren’t looking and a micro-twitch to the corner of his mouth give him away. However, he and other autistic people I know often have a wicked-sharp sense of humor. I think sometimes this humor relies on obscure connections between near-invisible details. That subtlety could account for some of the misunderstanding. That, and I guess that humor is highly subjective. That means if you’ve met one funny person with autism, you’ve met one funny person with autism.
How others see autism
The other stumbling block for me in suspecting autism was other people’s perception of it, specifically even educators and healthcare professionals. It is true that life with autism is often a struggle for the whole family. Understanding your child’s reasons and motivations is not a given but has to be acquired, sometimes painfully. However, I think you will rarely find an autistic person doing something without an internal reason. They won’t do something just because others are doing it and they don’t want to look bad.
My son is an amazing person with fresh perspectives that are so hard to find anywhere else. Autistic people are often capable of asking questions where others aren’t capable. Living in a village where life is based on everyone knowing each other has been a real hardship for my son. However, I was always convinced that if I were to drop him randomly in a completely alien environment, he would make out fine. On the other hand, I doubted if any other of the village kids would. He knows how to rely on himself alone and how to utilize his resources efficiently. I couldn’t reconcile the son I know with the general impressions I received from professionals and the world. For them autism meant missing development, defective connections and damaged goods. Even a decade later, I think my enthusiasm for autism confuses a lot of people.
I have a neighbor who to this day uses terms like “nonsense” and “not all there” when she refers to my son. She does this without missing a beat. She lacks the depth of awareness to see it isn’t true and lacks the sensitivity to see that it is hurtful. Autistic people find the strength to deal with this on a daily basis, and yet they are still often considered the emotionally defective ones. Did I mention that they aren’t supposed to understand irony? What ordeals do you believe require strength from your child? Our community wants to know and would love to read your comments below.
For tips to better understand and relate to your child, read the last section of my post The Social Circle.
If you are scared to take your child for a diagnosis, it’s ok. Your child is probably scared every day. This makes for common ground, and that’s where we can start conversations.