Dear parent of a child recently diagnosed with autism,

Growing up we didn't notice anything different with Andrew. Sure he had some strange interests and seemed more interested than others but hey, that's just him. Maybe we just paid a little more attention to his sister because she didn't talk until she was 5. He had his quirks, never wanted to be affectionate, and I don't think he has ever once said "I love you" to anybody. He went to the same school from preschool until 5th grade. It was a small private school so many of his friendships just kind of happened. No one really had to try. Maybe that covered it up? We really do not know why everyone seemed to miss it for years.

At the start of 5th grade his teacher noticed a few things. He didn't seem to be able to get what he wanted to say out, would be upset by writing, and seemed to be struggling. Then we moved in the middle of 5th grade and that's when everything became clearer. When he was put in a new situation he couldn't make friends because he didn't know how. It's only this year (in the middle of 6th grade) that he started to have friends that occasionally hung out with him or he'd call. 

Last February, Andrew had a melt down in class. No one knew what triggered it, but the teacher believed it was a seizure (we now know that it was not a seizure). I was called and that began the line of doctors, neurologists, cardiologists, MRIs, CT scans, and an overnight stay at Children's National for an EEG. We have pretty much been in every department of Children's looking for answers. This past December, we finally made it to the Division of Neurology and he was diagnosed with autism, which we all expected for a while but it just wasn't verified yet. At least now we have some answers and know where to go. 

The doctors at Children's have been great pointing me in the right direction and taking time to speak with me when I have questions. The best piece of advice I have heard in all of this is: Do not stop looking at your child as a child and start seeing him/her as autism. Yes, there will be struggles, but you will figure out what works for your family. Do not feel guilty if some suggestions just don't sit well with you. Everyone has their own way of coping and seeking treatments. No one way is right, not everyone feels the same. Do not forget about yourself. No matter what your child's condition, if you ignore yourself you are not at your best for your child.

Sincerely, 

Andrew's mom, Pam

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