Sweaty palms, dry throat. I felt light headed yet my heart was heavy. It's just a dream, because what I had just read couldn't possibly be right, or could it?
Just over 3 years ago I sat alone in my room, surfing the internet on ways to help my son (who was just over 2 years old) speak more. I was tired of him falling behind in his developmental milestones and wasn't going to take, ‘Oh, he's just a boy they develop slower’ anymore. Then, there it was, an article by a lady whose son had recently been diagnosed with Autism. At first I thought, ‘poor lady, must be so hard dealing with a child that has a disability.’ But then, as I read further - deeper into her writing. I realized that she had just described MY son. My son, who up until that very moment was normal to me, all of a sudden it all made sense, all of it. The delayed crawling, delayed walking, no speech, no responding to his name, no pretend play, no pointing for objects, no wanting to play with other kids, no no no to it all. I didn't need an expert to even tell me at that very moment - I already knew.
So what exactly was Autism? As per Autism.net, "Autism is a complex developmental disorder that typically affects a person's ability to communicate, form relationships, and respond appropriately to the environment. Autism results from a neurological disorder that impedes normal brain development in the areas of social interaction and communication skills." Yes, that was my son.
I went to tell my mother about what we had just learned about our precious son, my aunts and cousins just happened to be visiting as well. I initially decided to wait for a more private setting to explain it all to her – but then she kept asking me why I was looking so pale and what was bothering me. The tears started pouring down my face, the sobbing, the shaking. I was talking, yet didn't make sense to anyone, but I was wrong. They heard, they listened and they comforted. This was my Pakistani family. I thought they wouldn't understand, but I was wrong.
The months to follow we had to get him officially diagnosed just to be put on the never-ending waitlists for provincial funding, occupational therapy, speech therapy (and the list goes on). Even when the official (psychological assessment) results came in I held on to a glimmer of hope that I was just that typical mom overreacting...but I wasn't.
Guest Blogger: Amber Fancy
Often times I've been told I shouldn't speak about him being autistic because people will treat him different, but why not? He IS different and we need to communicate with him accordingly. I've had several South Asian parents of newly diagnosed children contact me, they are broken, they are hurt. They have all told me the same thing, they will not be telling family and grandparents about their child being on the Autism Spectrum. They feel that the children will be judged and not be included by other family members. They feel that they just will not understand and look down upon their child. I hear it all the time. But I always encourage that, once they have come to terms with the diagnosis, they need to educate all those close to them. Let them know that this is nobody's fault and that they ARE going to thrive in life the best THEY possibly can.
I never knew I had it in me to love and accept my special needs son as much as I do, but I was wrong...
Amber Fancy lives in Toronto, ON, taking a break from the workforce to stay home and raise her three exceptional boys. A proud Canadian-Pakistani, having a child with special needs and an Autism Advocate for life!