According to my Facebook memories it is exactly six years today since my daughter was diagnosed. She was 4 at the time and had been going through the process of diagnosis for over a year by the time her appointment came.
I recently heard a parent of a child suspected of being on the spectrum say they would never look to get their child diagnosed as they didn’t wish them to ‘be labelled.’
So how has having my daughter diagnosed helped?
Firstly it helped HER.
This is by far the most important point. My daughter is able to accept herself, understand herself and find her ‘tribe’ by having an identity and knowing that while she may be different she is far from alone. Her mental health was one of the biggest reasons I sought for a diagnosis. There is no shame is being autistic and I seek to promote her autism as part of her wonderful, unique and beautiful personality. It is who she is and she embraces that.
Secondly it helped HER EDUCATION.
By having a diagnosis her anxiety is recognised and supported. Her selective mutism is understood and not ignored. When she takes language as literal teachers can see she isn’t being cheeky or naughty but it is a genuine processing difference. Her social differences are understood and can be supported. Her strengths can be celebrated and her struggles supported. Sadly without a diagnosis some services could not be accessed and therefore support could not be put in place. Having a diagnosis brought patience, understanding and help that she would otherwise have missed out on.
Finally it helped ME.
I am still the same parent I was before but now my mental health has improved making me a stronger and happier person. We are too quick to forget how much parental mental health can affect families. When parents feel they are to blame for their child’s difficulties, anxieties and struggles they become defensive, depressed and isolated. Unfortunately parent blame is rife without a diagnosis as it is assumed the child is struggling through poor parenting. This is very rarely the case but it has destroyed so many families when diagnosis is delayed or withheld. I am more able to embrace my child, celebrate her and enable her because I understand her better and no longer carry the burden of guilt that I am to blame.
Naomi’s diagnosis report is very different to the child she is five years later. Her autism now manifests in very different ways but she is still autistic and both of us celebrate that fact daily.
Autism hasn’t stopped her succeeding, in fact in many ways it has helped her. She’s a rule-abider, people pleaser, unique and funny individual who accepts her own quirks and is happy being herself. She has struggled and even added ‘extra’ diagnosis over the years including an eating disorder but in the six years since her autism diagnosis she has won several awards, been on prime time TV, fought and won for a disabled swing in the local park for her brother and even written some incredible blogs about her own struggles.
Would I still want her diagnosis today if she wasn’t already? Absolutely!
Diagnosis isn’t anything to fear, it’s a key that helps you understand and access support. It doesn’t define your child it just enables them to be free to be exactly who they are.
If you are worried about your child’s development do seek advice from your GP, health visitor or child development team. It is in everyone’s interest to support and diagnose where necessary.