2014 Photographer Index_Finan_Ahlam_Anisa 2014_frazier_elliott-henry
I would like to be able to say that Autism has made me a better parent, a better person. But, I’m not sure that is true. Certainly, Autism has made me a different parent, a different person.
David was diagnosed with Autism on May 31, 2013 at 29 months of age. Before David turned one, I had concerns that he was displaying autistic tendencies. My husband and I were first time parents and didn’t know exactly what “normal” or “typical” was, but it seemed from day one that we had to work so much harder at being parents to David than what we observed in other parents and their children.
Throughout David’s first 2 ½ years of life, we shared our concerns with many. We heard, “He’s a late bloomer”, “Boys always talk late”, “He’ll talk when he’s ready” and countless other comments that at the time were both frustrating and reassuring. We questioned and doubted ourselves as parents, why did others think our child was “fine” and yet we couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t, as badly as we wanted to.
For us, the road to diagnosis was more distressing than the actual diagnosis. By the time we self-referred ourselves to Wisconsin Early Autism Project (WEAP), we felt very alone, very confused, and most of all very exhausted. With diagnosis came a treatment plan and an amazing team, which resulted in us feeling less confused, less alone and far more hopeful. May 31, 2013 was the best and worst day of my life as a parent as it simultaneously brought both gratitude and grief. Gratitude as Autism has brought our family in contact with the most incredible, dedicated and compassionate individuals one could imagine - through Birth to 3, WEAP, and our school district’s Early Childhood program – all working together to help us, help David. Grief as Autism has brought a sadness that I had not previously known as despite David’s progress in treatment, each day presents painful reminders of his unique struggles in comparison to his neurotypical peers. Although I am a Psychologist, an expert in human behavior, Autism has the ability to make my own child’s behavior so unpredictable, so interpretable that I’m often left guessing how to best help him through the current obstacle.
And so…we live by the words spoken by autism advocate, Dr. Bernard Rimland, after his son was diagnosed with autism in 1958, “This is War” and along with David’s treatment team, we’ll keep fighting.
Maria and Justin, parents of David
Sun Prairie, WI