Saturday, 21 September 2013

Accepting Autism

In my twenty-seven years I feel like I have overcome quite a bit. I was diagnosed with a learning disability when I was twelve. I was diagnosed as meeting the clinical definition of depression when I was fifteen. Over the years this has been expanded to include an anxiety disorder and a ‘chemical imbalance’. At seventeen I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my right knee – more commonly occurring in individuals three or four times my age. However, none of those experiences prepared me for a meeting I was to have regarding my daughter on an otherwise uneventful Thursday morning.

I sat in this small room with two doctors as they went through their various assessments of her behaviour and why they felt her worthy of the official diagnosis of “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) – high functioning”; also known as, Asperger Syndrome. As a parent, there was nothing that could have prepared me for sitting in this room while doctors told me that my perfect little girl may not be perfect. My heart sank, and frankly, I just had an overwhelming sense of fear. That is a word that has taken many aback, but let me explain.

When I heard those words about my child for the first time all I could see was those people that would treat her differently because they couldn’t see past that word: “AUTISM”. Would she ever be able to fall in love? Would she get married? Would she have children?

These are all things I want for her. It breaks my heart to think these life landmarks may be more difficult for her to come by.

After nearly two month to consider her future and talk to others; most importantly my wife, with children or family somewhere on the spectrum I have come to some realizations. The first and most important being that she is still the same girl she always has been. She is a lovable, playful, outgoing child who just wants to dance and sing. She is also going to be helped by this official diagnosis. The Toronto District School Board will now be legally obligated to meet her additional needs, where they were initially sitting on their hands during her first year. And, of course, that is just the beginning.

Meeting my daughter’s needs will be a much more involved process than meeting my own was. My learning disability required a little bit extra time on tests and gave me the opportunity of a credited study hall. Both my wife (who is luckily acting as my rock during this trying time) and I will be advocating for our daughter in some capacity for our entire lives. But frankly; there is no other person in this world I would rather advocate for.

For other parents in a similar situation reading this, please share your stories with me at