Handle with Care?

Recently read an article in which parents of an autistic child felt awkward discussing their child’s disorder with parents of typical children and therefore, refused the “label” (as they termed it) of autism for their son. They felt it was uncomfortable explaining the challenges their child faced, and a tough subject to bring up out of the blue.

[Why now tell anyone that my son is autistic? For me, the main reason is to help people understand what my son is not: he is not anti-social, he is not inconsiderate, and he is certainly not contagious.]

Ultimately, the article concluded that the parents of this child felt, by and large, the benefits of not mentioning their son’s diagnosis outweighed those of bringing it up even though they experienced “close calls” when others, including the child’s peers, were suspicious of the boy’s “quirky” behaviors.

Reading this article makes me question whether these parents worried their son would be labeled …or would they?  I am sure they needed to have a diagnosis to obtain the intensive therapy their son received – so when they needed the label it was okay to call him autistic?

Many children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder – especially those diagnosed with the most common form today – pervasive development disorder (PDD)— go on to college, are not anti-social, are very considerate and of course, and I shudder just saying these words, are not contagious.  She makes the label ‘autistic’ sound like a child has cooties—clearly an issue on her part.

Having a son that was diagnosed with severe pervasive development disorder at the age of two-now a junior at Brown University and socially and emotionally adjusted, considerate, well respected and well- liked young man – I am thankful I ‘embraced’ the label of autism for my son as it helped me accept his ‘quirks’ and obtain the needed support of friends, families, educators and doctors.

I wonder when this young boy in the article grows up and looks back on his school records if he will thank his parents for ‘hiding’ his diagnosis or will he assume they were embarrassed by it.  I hope as time goes on his parents lend more credit to their friends and family and realize though the disorder does not define their son, it is a part of who he is.

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