Voices of Autism: ‘More of a Blessing Than a Curse’

Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. Today’s story was written by Jessica Severson, mother of Graham, 20 months, and author of the blog Don’t Mind the Mess:

SeversonRight now my family’s autism story has just begun. Our only child, Graham, is only 20 months old. He was diagnosed less than 6 weeks ago, on Valentine’s Day. I don’t know what our ending is yet; I don’t even know the next chapter.

As for this moment, on this page, we have a lot of benefits other families living with autism don’t have. One of the biggest is that we blend in. Because my son is so young, his strange behaviors look like many normal toddlers’ strange behaviors. When people find out he isn’t talking yet, they can tell you about 10 other kids who were late talkers. If I do tell people he’s autistic, I’m not sure they quite believe me.

It’s okay. I get it. No one else believed me, either, when I first came to the sudden realization that my son was autistic a few months ago. I only found out because of our pediatrician, who asked thorough questions about his milestones and got even more thorough when she saw he wasn’t meeting them. It was the first time we’d ever seen her, but we owe her so much.

Our autism diagnosis so far has been more of a blessing than a curse. I no longer have to feel like the only parent who feels like I’m doing a terrible job, like I’m bad for wanting a break from my child, like I’m just not able to handle any of it. There is now a thing with a name, and I don’t have to put the entire burden on my own shoulders.

This story has barely started, but already I’ve heard stories from lots of other people. The community of parents living with autism every day is amazing. There’s another kind of story I hear, though. I’m hearing it more and more. It’s a story of friends and family members who worry about a child, whose parents insist the child is fine, who won’t go and get them checked out. Maybe they don’t know that a child can get diagnosed at 18 months old, like Graham was, or even younger. Maybe they think autism diagnoses are minor and that they’ll hurt more than they’ll help. Maybe they think they’ll grow out of it. It’s those parents who really need to start their stories.

My life is crazier now than it was before, but it’s also better. By the end of April, my son will be receiving more than 20 hours a week of services to help him learn, grow, and adjust. I don’t know what the rest of our story is, but I know it’ll be better because we know the truth. Early treatment and diagnosis are a huge breakthrough not just for my son, but for me. I’m still learning, I’m still figuring out who my son is, but we’re all doing it together.

To read previous stories in this series,
click here. For instructions on how to submit your story, click here.

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  1. by Spectrummy Mummy

    On April 24, 2011 at 8:00 am

    That is so wonderful to have such an early diagnosis and services in place for your son at his age. Early Intervention is so important, and so frequently missed because of pediatricians taking a wait-and-see approach. I’m so pleased you saw the right doctor! Thank you for sharing your story here, and best wishes for your family.

  2. by Lynn

    On April 24, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Early intervention is soooo important. Our timing was about the same as yours and we really are the lucky ones. I’ve known parents who were in denial and you definitely aren’t doing your child any favors by not getting a diagnosis.

  3. by Floortime lite mama

    On April 24, 2011 at 10:56 am

    Excellent Attitude to have
    Finding out and accepting the diagnosis is half the battle

  4. by Alysia

    On April 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    Hurray for your pediatrician and for your open mind. early intervention is SO important and I hope that your story will encourage those parents with concerns to get help.
    So so glad you shared your story.

  5. by Jess

    On April 24, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    Thanks, everyone.
    Happy to update with some great news. Graham’s been in therapy for 4 weeks and already went from 0 words to 20. His demeanor is drastically improved. All of us are happy as we’ve ever been.

    If you’re concerned about issues in your young child’s development, I really encourage you to talk to your doctor. Early Intervention is amazing!

  6. by Tracie

    On April 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

    Our son was diagnosed at 18 months as well and therapy has worked wonders for him. He isn’t saying words clear, but has his own way of saying words like “eat”, “1,2,3″ and will even do sign language. We are so happy to be able to communicate with him. Thankfully his speech therapist expects him to talk with more therapy. I agree that early intervention makes all the difference. Take care and remember that your child is no different than before his diagnosis. Graham is still Graham but now has a diagnosis.

  7. by Autism Maven

    On April 24, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    Welcome to the exclusive club–parents of kids on the spectrum. It’s a tough entrance exam, but once you’re in (and you’ve made it), you will find that the club is full of amazing people, just like you!

    You trusted your instinct and got the results you were looking for. Keep doing just that, and your son will continue to thrive!

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