The Can’ts Will Become Cans

I remember like it was just yesterday. I dazed out of the evaluation window as we waited for someone to come in and explain how this “process” works. My son had just turned 2 a couple of weeks earlier, and he was finally old enough for an official diagnosis.

I was anxious because on that today, June 9, 2015, I would find out that it wasn’t all in my head. That something was indeed wrong.

We listened, we asked questions, we tried to initiate activities that showed the doctors why we were concerned…. two hours later, the process was over and I sat in our rental car sobbing. Not because I was surprised or even heartbroken over the autism diagnosis. But because I was angry.

Angry that I had been right, despite pediatricians and therapists trying to reassure me countless times over the previous two years. “He’ll catch up,” “boys just develop late,” “wait for the next leap”…. I was angry that this couldn’t be fixed; Angry that I was the one with the 1 in 59. He didn’t deserve this diagnosis, none of us did.

Just as people remember their wedding anniversaries, birthdays, and major life events, autism parents remember their child’s diagnosis day. It was day one of many, many more days to come.  There were family members who needed autism awareness and education, there were countless therapy appointments, harsh judgments from strangers, and yes, even times when I had to consider my own mental health as we battled the meltdowns and communication barriers.

But here’s the thing. When it’s day one of your journey, there is no history to look back on. You can’t see the progress your son or daughter is about to make. You can’t see the victories, the ear-to-ear smiles, the bravery, or the love. Yet.

Who my son was at that appointment on June 9, 2015 is a completely different child compared to who he is today. Because of those countless therapy appointments, family members who put aside their own ideas of “normal” and learned acceptance, sacrifices such as changing jobs and moving, and last but definitely not least, because of us. His parents.

We wake up every day, loving our son and giving him our very best. I can’t say the anger or sadness ever disappears… But you learn to fight. You eventually learn how to put your own emotions in a side bar, and fight for your child to have every opportunity available. Whether it is in their communication, education, play groups, birthday parties, etc. And battles turn into victories, and victories result in immeasurable joy.

On our son’s diagnosis day, he couldn’t say a single word.

Today, he came up to me while I was singing in the kitchen and whispered “shhhh, all done mama.” Point taken, son. The honesty of these kiddos…

I could write a book on the progress that Levi has made in just a few short years, thanks to the love and dedication of professionals, friends, and family. He’s gone from screaming and thrashing around in grocery stores, to sitting contently in the cart while I fill it with groceries for the coming week. He used to ignore strangers and now, he says hello and gives hi-fives to new friends.

I’ve gained confidence over the years that the “cant’s” of today will become “cans” in the future.

He has a tribe, and while it may not look like other family tribes, it’s been life changing. He has us, and we have him.

Don’t despair, mama. Don’t give up, dad. Your child is going to be all right, I promise.

Written by, Shirley DeWitt

Shirley is a SAHM to her 5 year-old autistic son Levi and 2 year-old daughter Adaline. She spends her time going on fun adventures with her husband and children, and appreciating each new day as it comes. She and her family currently reside in Tampa, FL.

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Finding Cooper's Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you're never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village....all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier. Welcome to my page!

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