Nearly sixteen years ago Boo received his autism diagnosis. The diagnosis was told to me in somber tones by a well meaning psychiatrist who claimed that he would make little progress and would probably not amount to much. Luckily, I chose not to believe her. Friends and colleagues asked me if I had taken time to grieve. Apparently, this diagnosis was supposed to throw me into a deep pit of despair. Obviously, it did not. I threw myself into learning everything I could about autism and getting him the supports he needed, but I never grieved the fact that my son was not neurotypical. I have a great kid, I told myself. Why should I grieve?
Last week, I was sitting in a similar conference room hearing that my second child had just received an autism diagnosis. Luckily, no one suggested that I should grieve. Instead, the psychologist pointed out Mouse’s strong suits and the things that she was good at. She made it clear that Mouse did not have to tell anyone about the diagnosis if she did not want to. It was her information to do with as she wished. Mouse is very open about being autistic, in fact wears it as a badge of pride. She, and I , and the rest of the family proudly belong to the tribe of autistics. No shame, no grief.
I am glad to see that times have changed a bit. If your child was just diagnosed, remember that he/she is the same child whom you love and adore that he/she was yesterday. There is not reason to grieve or mourn. No one has died. No one is sick. No one needs a cure. What do we need? Understanding, empathy, an occasional accommodation. What don’t we need? Sympathy.
I think every family who just had someone diagnosed as being on the spectrum should get a welcome basket. In this basket would be endless supplies of coffee and fidgets, ear defenders, sensory toys, weighted blankets and resources to call for help. We should throw parties for people who were just diagnosed because they have brains which work in magnificent ways. I am not ashamed of my diagnosis. My children are not ashamed of theirs. We do not need a cure. We do not need your sympathy or grief. Coffee and dog walks, however, are always cheerfully accepted. Carry on, friends.