I’m Sorry, Your Son Has Autism

These words hit me like a ton of bricks. Like a wrecking ball to my soul. 

It felt like my world came crashing down on me and I was drowning in quick sand all at the same time. Even though I already knew in my heart that my son had Autism.

After all I was a teacher of students with Autism for 21 years at that time so I could tell Cole was not developing skills he should have had by age 2. 

He did not speak or make intelligible sounds, he did not make eye contact or respond to his name, he didn’t care if I left the room nor did he seem to notice.

He would continually run in circles while giggling at nothing in particular and when he did stop he would spin in a circle while staring up at the ceiling.

I chose to focus on the “well at leasts”..the things that he could do that convinced me that he was just fine.

“At least he doesn’t mind noise.”, “At least he doesn’t resist changes in his environment.”, “At least he smiles at me from time to time.”

In the back of my mind my knowledge and experience kept reminding me that all the “well at leasts” meant nothing because Autism is a spectrum disorder which affects everyone differently. 

So then I went to my last resort in my denial “This can’t be happening to my son.” But it was happening.

I walked out of the doctor’s office with tears in my eyes, my son in my arms and my free hands full of literature they gave me on the way out.

Pamphlets about grief, various support groups and the many services they offered to help my son. 

I was so angry I wanted to scream in the parking lot. I wished I had never taken him there at all because they told me what I didn’t want to hear.

As I put my son in his car seat I looked at him and I said “Everything is going to be ok.”

He looked in my eyes and smiled and I realized I was talking to myself because I was coming apart. I drove home in a daze.     

It is now 5 years later and I feel like I have learned so much. This experience has made me a better person and a stronger teacher.

The wisdom I have gained is invaluable and I do my best to share what I have learned with others.

Here are few tidbits of advice I would give to those struggling with a new diagnosis.              

Your feelings are valid

Your feelings are your feelings. Do not let anyone tell you that your feelings are wrong or that you are overreacting.

You will feel anger, frustration, sadness, joy, sometimes all in one day and that is ok.

Lean on others

My family is wonderful and has been very supportive but no one will understand what you are going through better than those who are walking in your shoes.

There are plenty of online and local support groups made up of parents and caregivers that share your feelings and struggles. It’s a good place to also share your triumphs and victories.

You can also find local resources through these groups such as physicians, activities and events geared towards those with special needs.

These types of groups have honestly been a lifesaver for me. If you truly feel as if you cannot function don’t be afraid to seek out professional help as well.              

Focus on the “well at leasts”

Even on bad days everyone has some “well at leasts”.

This is the same for our kids. One time my son cursed in school and his teacher said, “At least he is communicating”. She wanted to lighten the mood of the conversation but it made me realize that focusing on the positive is helpful.

When I think back on that day 5 years ago I remember coming home and crying in my husband’s arms. I couldn’t even speak.

He gathered me up and looked at me and said words that changed everything for me. He said “Nothing has changed. Cole is the same as he was before his diagnosis. It’s just a word.”

My final piece of advice is just that.

Autism is a scary word but it doesn’t change your child. It may change your outlook a bit but it doesn’t mean the end of the world.

It’s an unexpected journey with a beautiful view. If you can come up with your own “well at leasts…” you will be okay.

Written by, Caren Martin

My name is Caren Martin and I am a mother to a beautiful little boy named Cole who has Autism. He is 7 years old. I recently retired from the public sector as a special education teacher after 25 years serving students with Autism and related disabilities. It is my passion and I love sharing my experiences as both a parent and a teacher with parents who are also on this journey.

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 our journey. You can also follow us on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to our newsletter.

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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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