Autism: The Blessing of Late Diagnosis
Don’t misunderstand me. I know that the earlier a child is diagnosed with autism, the better. Early intervention is important, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. My daughter was six and a half before she was diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Chronic health issues, surgeries, and other problems masked the red flags that, in hindsight, were evident from birth. We finally got the diagnosis, began therapy, and have seen amazing progress in the three years since.
But I have beaten myself up more times than I can count that I didn’t see it sooner, didn’t ask questions earlier, didn’t get the early intervention that is so important. Until recently, I have seen this in a negative light, without looking deeper to see if there were hidden blessings waiting to be discovered.
When I was asked to speak briefly at the Second Annual United Texarkana Autism Awareness Rally to kick off Autism Awareness Month, I began reflecting on our journey, and I realized that a late diagnosis was a blessing in disguise.
A few years ago, just after my daughter’s diagnosis, we saw a neurologist. In the course of the examination, she asked about her extracurricular activities. When I mentioned that she takes dance lessons, she said, “She can dance?” She sounded surprised. I assured her that she has taken dance since she was three. Her response was, “As long as she is interested and you can afford it, keep her in dance!” (If it’s so therapeutic for her, I would love for insurance to help pay for it. 😉 )
I have seen her struggle. I know she works harder than the other kids her age (and younger), and I realize she’s still a half-beat to a beat behind. I also know that she loves to dance, and I’m grateful for a studio that focuses on technique and instilling a love for dance, with no unreasonable expectation of perfection. I hadn’t realized that, in the eyes of some professionals, she was doing something she shouldn’t be able to do.
Yes, there was a blessing in my daughter’s late diagnosis. I didn’t know what she was or wasn’t supposed to be able to do. Because I had no expectations or clear picture of her supposed limitations, we let her try something she wanted to try, something that ended up being both enjoyable and therapeutic.
What else have we let her do that she’s not supposed to be able to do successfully? We have no idea. She’s made amazing progress, and we’re proud of her. I have heard and read the evaluation report diagnosing her with high-functioning autism. I know her prognosis is very good, although there may be some areas where she will always struggle and need assistance. I also know no one really knows for sure. We are preparing for her seventh dance recital because we didn’t know that a neurological evaluation would indicate that it should never happen.
When it comes to dancing, she’s not nearly as hampered by her “limitations” as the professionals might think. I’m willing to take the chance this might be true in other areas as well.
“And you ask ‘What if I fall?’
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?”
– Erin Hanson
Note: After I finished this post, but before I could edit or publish it, I went to the rally and shared these thoughts. While there, I visited with the representatives of many organizations that serve the autism community. Janis McClure, Secondary Transition, and Matt Williams, Autism Consultant, from Region 8 Education Service Center gave away a lot of books to the parents who were present, but they donated one just for you!
If you, or someone you know, needs a copy of Ready, Set, Potty! Toilet Training for Children with Autism and Other Developmental Disorders by Brenda Batts, please leave a comment telling me one of autism’s hidden blessings you’ve discovered.
- The giveaway is open to residents of the U.S. ages 18 and older.
- The giveaway ends on Thursday, April 9, 2015, at 9:00 pm CDT.
- To enter the giveaway, leave a comment describing one of autism’s hidden blessings you’ve discovered.
- Only one comment per household.
- Duplicate or “extra” comments or comments left after the giveaway ends will be deleted.
- The winner will be chosen at random using the plug-in And the Winner Is.
- The winner will be notified by email within 24 hours of the end of the giveaway and will have 24 hours to respond with the requested information. If the information isn’t received, another winner will be chosen.
I look forward to reading the hidden blessings you share!