A New Kind of Normal



Carly Carver, Editor

The Ashland Beacon

   I have grieved over having a “normal” child, and I believe it is okay for you to also.

   I see you. The mother who is overwhelmed after hearing “X” diagnosis attached to her child. The father who is desperately searching for every therapy and every type of assistance for his special-needs child. The caregiver so desperate to help the child she loves have a “normal” life after hearing those words roll off a medical professional’s lips.

   For me, the diagnosis was Autism Spectrum Disorder, and my son was only two years old when his pediatrician first suspected it.

   I had never heard of ASD before my son was diagnosed. As soon as his pediatrician screened him and the scoring indicated “high risk,” I was in complete denial. “How could MY son be Autistic?” I ate right when I was pregnant, I exercised, I did tummy time, he does not even “LOOK” Autistic! No, there must be some mistake here.

   Kentucky’s leading diagnostic center, multiple visits, and a panel of professionals later would then tell me there is no mistake here, my child is Autistic.

   I was hurting. I did not know why. I still had my son. He was happy, so why did I hurt? Why was I so angry? Why was I so confused?

   As soon as my son was diagnosed with ASD, I immediately went into research mode. I read every book I could get my hands on. I followed every #ActuallyAutistic speaker I could find. I joined every support group. I enrolled him in different therapies four days a week, and I quit my job just to take him to those therapies and attend them so I could do more therapy as a hands-on parent in the evenings at home. I did everything I could to be the “Autism-Mom Expert” and help my son.

   But I was still hurt.

   Until I read something by Dr. Richard Solomon in a book about the Play Project (highly recommend).

   “It is okay to grieve for the child you thought you would have and then learn to love everything about the child you have now.”

   Those words broke down all the hurt. I needed some validation that I could hurt, and the moment I did everything started making sense.

   It is completely okay for you to hurt and grieve over the idea of having a “normal child.” Hurt with your ideas. I used to hurt for the worries I had over him being bullied in school because of his diagnosis. I used to hurt over the idea of him struggling through therapies and speech and social engagements. I used to hurt for the idea of him in school. I used to hurt for so much I wanted him to have… sports, friends, a partner, marriage, college, so much.

   And once I let go of all that hurt, and all that worry about what the world could do to my son, I learned to embrace his diagnosis and look forward to all the things HE could do to change the world.

   My son is my best friend. He is now six-years old, verbal, active, social, and Autistic. He is an expert on all things related to the ocean and sea creatures. He is an excellent baker. He loves to garden. He detests squishy foods and certain textures, and he thinks certain instruments and noises are too loud.

   He is perfect.

   I do not grieve for my idea of a “normal” child anymore. I have fully embraced and love all things that make my son himself.

   And you, reader, will learn to do so as well. But first you must realize it is okay to feel hurt over that diagnosis, whatever it may be. It is okay for you to worry about your child’s future because of this diagnosis. It is okay for you to be disheartened over the additional work that entails. It is okay. Take your time, grieve, and then get up and help your child tackle this world.

   I have grieved over having a “normal” child, and I believe it is okay for you to also.