Autism. Did that make ya cringe a little? No worries, it used to be hard for me, too. A loaded word that literally made my heart stop. My 3.5 year old son, Jayce, is on the Autism spectrum. I want to go back a year to when our journey towards this diagnosis began. It was a roller coaster and a whirlwind of every emotion you can possibly think of, but thanks to his early diagnosis, my little guy is doing so well now.
As a baby, everything about Jayce seemed just like it should be and he was a “normal” baby. He hit all of his milestones on time or early, he was loving and happy, and nothing seemed different except his speech was a behind and he liked to flap his arms a lot when he got excited!
Once he turned 2, he was still flapping his arms a lot, he didn’t look at the camera when I tried to get him to smile for a picture, and he was very particular about having things lined up a certain way.
It was obvious that he had a speech delay, but I didn’t really want to accept how behind he was. After about 3 months, he still wasn’t progressing so I knew that speech therapy with ECI would be a good option for us and it could only help him!
Once we got him involved in speech therapy, they did mention Autism, but also made it very clear that at age 2 it’s just too soon to diagnose it. He grew leaps and bounds with ECI and by the end of his year with the services, he had gone from 5 words to well over 100 words. He still had his quirks, but he was starting to come out of his shell and become more outgoing. His personality really started to shine more the closer he got to turning 3.
On his 3rd birthday, he started going to an early childhood school that has a program specifically for children that had ECI therapy services. ECI stops at 3 and then they transition into the public school at that point to continue their therapy. They did an initial assessment of Jayce when he started and again the possibility of Autism was brought up. We would have to wait until the psychologist came in a couple of months later to find out for sure though.
I thought that he was definitely NOT on the spectrum. In a way, I kind of refused to acknowledge it or accept the possibility. Not my perfect child. No way.
We went in early one day before school for the psychological assessment. After they were done, the psychologist and teachers said they would go to the conference room to discuss and back soon with their results and observations. The clock was ticking… We had been there a lot longer than we expected and much longer than they said they would take which made me nervous. Eventually they came back in and the look on their faces told me everything I needed to know.
The psychologist told me that did decide that Jayce is on the Autism spectrum as High Functioning.
In that moment my heart STOPPED. I felt dizzy, I tried to fight back tears, and I didn’t quite understand how this could have happened. I was sad, confused, angry, and still didn’t believe it or want to accept it. I didn’t know much about Autism at all, which is probably why I took it so hard and saw it as a prison sentence of sorts.
The ride home was long and quiet as I tightly gripped the papers from the assessment.
A few days passed and the tears finally stopped. I started researching more, praying, talking to my husband, and more peace started to come over me. I began to say it and accept it. My son is on the Autism spectrum. The more I researched, the more I realized how much more common it’s becoming and the more I became thankful that we got an early diagnosis. His vocabulary has grown, he talks in sentences, he laughs, smiles, loves taking selfies, likes to make jokes, play, and interact with everyone.
My heart has changed so much and now I embrace the “A Word” because it’s a good thing and not a bad thing. It’s not a label, it’s not a stamp on his forehead, and my child is no different now than he was before the diagnosis. It just describes how he processes things and how he sees the world uniquely. We have challenges daily, but I wouldn’t change a thing because I know he is perfect just how God made him.