This September will mark 14 years since my son was diagnosed with autism. Fourteen years since our lives changed forever.
Back then, getting an autism diagnosis wasn’t like it is today. You and your child would spend about 30 minutes with a doctor you had never met, with a letter of diagnosis sent to your family doctor. Because autism wasn’t as widely discussed or supported then, daycares rarely accepted children with a diagnosis, leaving families with one parent (or both) not being able to work. Intensive behavioural intervention (IBI) was the therapy of choice — do not get me started on that — and the long waitlist for therapy and services left parents struggling and isolated.
Thankfully, things are much different now. However, even with all the progress, an autism diagnosis is still extremely difficult, bringing daily challenges that we all try our very best to navigate.
There is so much I wish I could tell my past self, but the one thing I needed to hear back then was that it was okay.
Everything was okay.
Every single feeling I had was okay.
The sadness was okay. The anger was okay. The worry was okay.
The frustration was okay.
The longing for a different life was okay.
It was all okay.
Having those feelings and continuing to have those feelings doesn’t mean I don’t desperately love my child. My children are everything to me. I look at my son and see the most beautiful boy. I have literally given everything for him, and I would do it all again in a heartbeat.
That does not mean there aren’t days when I wish my life were different. Days when I long for my son to have the opportunities that other 16-year-old boys have. Days when I am so exhausted that I’m not sure I can go on anymore. Days when I am convinced that if I start to cry, I am never going to stop. Days when if someone hugs me, even a stranger, I am going to completely break down. And that is okay. It is all okay. ALL OF IT.
No matter where you are in your journey, everything you are feeling is okay. These feelings or thoughts do not mean you wouldn’t spend the rest of your life fighting for your child. And it definitely does not mean you do not love your child. At the end of the day, we need to give ourselves grace and remember that superheroes need rest too.
An autism diagnosis is not the end of the world. It is the start of a beautiful new world.