Leading Up To A Diagnosis by Laura Hurd
A recent conversation triggered past memories of outings with my now four year old son. He has autism.
In the early days of our autism diagnosis, I heard and read about meltdowns. Before we received news that my youngest son has autism, his behavior left me feeling confused and helpless. I couldn't seem to tame his behavior. From the outside he looked like an unruly child always on the brink of a tantrum.
My husband was just as distraught over our son's strong willed antics. Along with scratching our heads wondering what was going on, we were stressed out from the screams that echoed from daylight until dark.
Our little boy would slam cabinet doors, throw random objects for no reason, hit me, and scream. He had no words. This was his only way of communicating. Of course, at the time we did not know that. We thought he was simply being defiant.
Thankfully, God had prepared my heart and we pursued an autism diagnosis. It was no surprise when the answer came in the form of referrals to specialists and testing.
I was relieved to have answers and my son was now getting the help he needed.
Understanding Underlying IssuesWe soon learned that not only does our son have autism, but he was also diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and apraxia. I had been reading about sensory issues in children with autism, but the apraxia came as a surprise. It would be just as important to address as dealing with the autism itself. All of these things combined placed hurdles on our path to understanding what made our child tick. Once we learned more about the underlying issues, it helped us and our son overcome the crippling meltdowns. We were better prepared to respond to a meltdown instead of assuming our child was just acting out in defiance.
A Meltdown Looks Like A TantrumFinally, we had answers! Now, our biggest challenge was discovering how to best stretch our son little by little.
When a parent of a child with autism begins their journey of lovingly stretching them outside of their comfort zone, meltdowns will happen.
This is the margin of life with autism where parents get caught in the trap of fear, exhaustion, and pain.
Meltdowns are real. They are not tantrums. Our children cannot be spanked enough to whip them into shape.
Our guy has improved by leaps and bounds. There are still times when these feelings rise to the surface, but God has brought so much peace to my heart. He has helped me place blinders around myself and my son so we can move forward with care and love.
Awareness can bring acceptance. Until we are all willing to step outside of our usual thinking on how things are supposed to look, or how children are supposed to act, then we will continue to be stuck. Families of children with autism will get lost in the seclusion and darkness of the margins. We all deserve a chance at this life.