About two years ago, our oldest child was diagnosed with Autism. Without knowing it for sure but suspecting it, my husband tried for about a year to prepare me to the possibility of our son being Autistic. He read and did a lot of research on Autism Spectrum Disorder. As a teacher, I refused the diagnosis as I was afraid of labeling him. As I was a late bloomer myself, I thought that he just needed a bit more time to learn how to walk and talk but as the time went by, I started to have concerns of my own.
During the summer of 2003, I have noticed some negative comments about my son's behavior by people in the park or at the pool. One mother even approached me about the possibility of Autism. At first, I refused this possibility but since then, the idea of Autism started to eat me alive. After all, I knew so little about Autism but just the thought of it sounded just like a prison sentence.
Was it possible that my son's lack of speech was not related to timidity but to Autism? What kind of future would my baby have? What did I do to cause him to possibly be affected by this disorder? Did I do something wrong during my pregnancy? As time went by, questions drowned my mind to the point where I could not take it anymore.
For my son's sake, I needed the help of medical specialists to discover why my son never said the word: "Mommy" to me yet. Either way, I needed to know what was going on and how to help him and make him happy, no matter what the diagnosis would be. I owed that much to my child.
As he had his annual check up with our family physician, I shared my husband's concerns and mine with her. A few weeks later, we received a long and detailed questionnaire about our son's behavior, weaknesses, habits, etc. Then a month or so later, the appointment was given to us. From then on, both my husband Kevin and I went on an eternal roller coaster ride until that day, not knowing what to expect, how to deal with it and more importantly, how would it affect our son's life?
On December 17, 2003 I went to the appointment with my son as Kevin was caring for our young daughter at home. Both my mind and my emotions were a mess. What would this specialist on Autism tell me? How would she test him? When would I find out the results of her tests and observations? Little did I know that on this day, both my son's and family life would change forever. Following a series of tests and observations, done through play while being observed by other medical staff and advisors, the doctor shared the results: "Mrs. Leochko, your son has Autism."
My first reaction was to break down in tears. What had I done to cause my son to be affected by this disorder? The only things that I knew about Autism were that children live in their own world, losing touch with reality and also, like most people, I had seen the movie. Was my son a little "Rain Man"?
Realizing that I needed to know more about this disorder, my next question was: "What is Autism?" This question was then followed by: "What can we do to help my son?" and "What are the services that can be put in place for him and how do we proceed?" Like any parents newly hit by this diagnosis, several questions followed as well as a shower of answers which were not all assimilated as well as desired since my mind was racing at high speed.
The next step was to inform my husband. He was not surprised and was a lot calmer than me. He comforted me and asked me to look at our son while he was playing, enjoying himself and laughing out loud. He made me realize that we could help our son and that our main goal was to ensure his happiness. On December 22, 2003 two ladies came to meet us to start things rolling to get the services in place as soon as possible for Dasan. As they explained to us, early intervention is crucial as it gives our son better chances in life.
As time went by, services were slowly but surely put in place. Little did we know that our one year old daughter would be also referred and a year later, also diagnosed with Autism. Kaylee is situated higher on the spectrum because of her milder level of Autism while our son Dasan ranges from moderate to severe. It made us realize the difference on the spectrum. In a way, Dasan's diagnosis, help us identify our daughter's Autism at an earlier age: two years old. This way, the services have been put in place even earlier which gives her better chances of progression and a higher quality of life.
Since our son's diagnosis, I must say that both my husband and I have learned a lot about the Autism Spectrum Disorder also known as ASD. As parents of Autistic children, we did not only learn but also have decided to share this precious information with other parents, relatives, teachers or other people involved with individuals affected by the Autistic disorder. How did we do that? By researching information, ideas and also by using our own experience, ups, downs and tips on blogs and websites.
We are no experts and we certainly have no medical degree but as parents which have been living with Autism twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, we thought that at the beginning of this "adventure" all we knew and felt was: "Children in their own world, parents in the dark …" and now we see the light as there is one for everyone.
Autism is a disorder and affects our dealings with individuals with a different perception of life but let me tell you that it does not change the fact that our children are special in more than one way and that we do not only love them as they are but also, we would not change them for the world. The best gifts that we can give them are: love, patience, understanding, support and all the resources and services that can make a difference in their life.