Getting an accurate autism diagnosis is a turning point. In practical terms, it means that you can stop wondering what's wrong and start learning everything you need to know about your child's condition. Instead of searching for a way to make sense of unexpected quirks and inexplicable behavior, you finally have an explanation.
It should be a relief. But it can come as a shock.
I'm no stranger to hardship. You don't go from being raised by a disabled grandmother and a night-shift janitor, to a Harvard Law School honors graduate who runs a successful law firm in LA, without sweat and tears. After coming so far, I thought I could handle anything. Then I had an autistic child.
When I first learned my son's diagnosis, I couldn't even say the word "autism" without breaking down in tears. For months, I had put off going to a specialist for a diagnosis, hoping that whatever was happening with Marty would simply go away.
If I hadn't already had two daughters, I might have managed to stay in denial a little longer. But Marty was my third child. His two older sisters had given me models of what normal development for a two-year-old looked like. At this age, both Morgan and Michael had been speaking in complete sentences. Morgan had even potty trained herself by then. One day, she had simply declared she was ready to move on to "big girl" pants and refused to wear diapers anymore. Her older sister, Michael, was asking so many questions at this age that we were sure she was destined to be an attorney like her mom and dad.
Kindhearted friends reassured me. Boys always talk later than girls. If Marty preferred to play by himself and hoard a collection of plastic spoons and straws, maybe he was just independent and inventive. How I wanted to believe them! But in my heart, I knew that none of their assurances could explain what was happening with my son.