In September, my son James started at his new school. I decided not to tell his teachers about his autism diagnosis. I was determined that he not be labeled. As a teacher myself, I knew what labeling did to a child -- it hurt them, it stunted them. Even though I worked hard not to categorize my special needs’ students, I still sighed when I saw the words “learning disabled” on a student’s file at the beginning of the year. To put it simply, it meant more work for me.
I was determined that
“James has autism,” I typed the next day. I was sending an email to our family and friends. I couldn’t imagine talking to them all, saying the words again and again on the phone. I knew some people would be mad that I was putting such big news in an email, but I also knew that some people would be relieved that I wasn’t telling them face-to-face.
“The psychiatrist at Dayton Children’s diagnosed him, and we will, of course, seek a second opinion, but it looks like the diagnosis is correct.
After James' diagnosis of Asperger's, Syndrome, I read hundreds of articles on autism, sensory processing disorder, and oppositional behavior defiance disorder. I signed up for a conference given by Tony Atwood, sat in on "chats" in discussion rooms online, and attended a parenting class at the local YMCA. I joined a Mother's group too. I knew I needed to talk about it all -- but instead, the mothers talked to me.
Mostly about diets. Good Lord, the diets that were recommended to me! No dai
Right after James’ diagnosis of autism, his preschool had an end -of -the -year party. Parents talked about their vacation plans while little ones played on the swings and slides. I sat on the curb, away from everyone and glared at them. I glared at his teachers, who had first referred James for testing. I glared at the kids, who had refused to play with him all year and even now, were avoiding him. I glared at the other parents, especially the woman who had said upon hearing our news, “Oh, we
One of the hardest decisions I had to make as a parent of a child with Aspergers was what to tell people when they met him. Should I let them form their own opinions of James perhaps wondering about his lack of eye contact, but charmed by his incredible vocabulary, and a little confused by his volatile anger all on their own? Or should I interject my pat phrase, “James has Aspergers, which is high-functioning autism. He’s very intelligent, but he has emotional problems.”
It seemed prudent t
“I feel like I’m shielding our son from having a Christmas,” I said to Sean.
“I know. Not very merry, is it?” he answered. He was untangling the lights that we were going to put on the tree.
“His counselor actually said that we should try to keep things normal.”
“Well, that’s fun,” Sean said. He yanked too hard at one of the knots, and two little bulbs popped out, extinguishing all the lights.
“Your sister is still coming next week?”
“Yeah,” Sean said.
Time moved slowly in our house. Everyone else’s children grew up quickly, became dentists and lawyers, and most of all, best friends as siblings often do, later in life. Our lives were different. We moved forward in small increments, too often unnoticed, too often unfelt. And our goals were more simple -- get James through sixth grade, be able to go out to dinner as a family without being asked to leave because the kids had a screaming match at the ice cream bar. . .
Once Emma asked me wh