Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Autism: To Tell or Not to Tell

Autism. The word can drive fear into the hearts of parents - especially if you already have a child who has this diagnosis. And many struggle with whether or not to tell other people that their child is Autistic.

When Elizabeth was first diagnosed in May 2006, it was a devastating blow. Even though I was positive that was what it was as I videotaped her for Dr. Kerschon, knowing yourself and having a professional say it can be a huge blow for a woman. We carry our babies inside of us for 9/10 months and we dream beautiful dreams for them and when we begin to face facts, that something isn't right it's tough enough but when a person who specializes in children with special needs sits you down and says, "Autism" it can be devastating.

As I sat down and began e-mailing my family and friends who lived further away from us than Wichita, we asked that they please not tell other people about her diagnosis. We weren't ashamed, we were grieving. We were mourning the loss of a dream and needed time to learn what Autism would mean for us and Elizabeth. I needed time to process everything and I knew that I would know when the time was right to tell people. And slowly I began to tell people.

I think everyone makes the choice to speak to others about their child's unique qualities at their own speed. Sometimes family or friends tell you not to tell others about your child's diagnosis. I can't make the choice for you, but I can tell you that I've discovered the people react in one of three ways.
1. They don't know what to think about Elizabeth and so I have to explain what PDD-NOS means for her.

2. They are not accepting AT ALL! Those are the people I say good-bye to and don't look back. When Elizabeth was four there was a couple in a restaurant who were not very nice to her. They didn't have any patience for children at all. That's when I discovered my new phrase when people are rude about Elizabeth and her uniqueness. "My child has special needs. What's your excuse?" It tends to shut people up quickly. Then I tell them I hope they never have a grandchild or child with special needs, because they would have a hard time accepting them. There there is the last group of people.

3. They are accepting and ask questions. These are the people who help when they can and ask what they need to ask to understand her better.

I cannot make your choice for you. But I believe that the more we talk about Autism and the Autism Spectrum Disorders that our children struggle with the more that we can help them. If people don't know about what is going on, how can they understand or even try to understand. Also you might be surprised, you may meet another person who has family who is walking a similar path with their one child who has Autism or one of the Spectrum Disorders.

I hope you all have a good week.
Love in Christ,

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