The year was 1979. I was 2 years old when my mom took me to the doctor for odd behaviors. She was concerned because I wasn’t talking much, I didn’t like playing with others, I would get extremely upset if left with anyone other than my mom and dad, and I used every seat as a rocking chair. She was a nurse in a psychiatric facility and had seen these behaviors in older people; it scared her to see the same behaviors in her only child. The doctor said “Autism.” We left the doctor and it was never talked about again for almost 30 years, at least not in my presence.
Fast forward to 2006…I am 30. I have 3 children, two girls and one boy. The boy is the youngest and he is odd but maybe all boys are like that, I’ve only ever had girls so I don’t know. One day my mom is over and my 2 year old is playing need for speed with his dad. My 2 year old wins the race….like legitimately wins. My mom, a school counselor at this point, starts asking me a lot of unrelated questions. Does he play with others his age? Does he play what they want to play? How is he when left alone with people other than us? How does he communicate with you (he was only speaking one word sentences at this point)? When he is focused on something does he know you are calling his name? And on and on and on. Finally, I asked why the 20 questions. Her response changed my life. “I think my grandson has Autism like his mom.”
I often wonder why my parents decided to not say anything about that word. Why was I not told? Why was no one ever told? Imagine all the emotional and social pain I could have bypassed had I known I had this developmental disorder. Then I remember it was 1979. Autism was a newer diagnosis that many did not know about much less understand. Had this diagnosis been pursued, I could have grown up in a psychiatric facility; much like the one my mom worked in at the time. Whatever the reason, I have mixed feeling about knowing and not knowing about my diagnosis. I can’t change the past but I can influence the future.