Sunday, 13 July 2008

Diagnosis D-Day

It's no accident that the last couple of entries have ended on a defiantly upbeat tone. Because tomorrow is the day that Euan begins the process of being formally diagnosed for autism. It has been the dominant event on the horizon for the last few weeks, ever since the date was confirmed by the local Community Autism Team. And although it's the event we've been impatiently waiting for ever since we first heard the word autism used in connection with Euan, the sense of dreaded anticipation has been oppressive. It's like waiting to sit an exam for which you can't prepare, but whose outcome you know will change your life for ever.

It has taken the best part of 18 months to reach this point, since the day last winter that the nursery suggested calling in the educational psychologist. We took their advice, booked in a session and waited. The first seeds of anxiety were planted in our minds: nobody was saying the word autism at this point, but I had my suspicions. The few people I raised the issue with seemed almost at pains to scoff at the suggestion: "He's not autistic, he's just a happy child," they would splutter. And in many ways that's exactly what Euan was: a happy child who would sit and sing or play by himself for hours on end. The problem was, he was happy in a hermetically sealed world that nobody else was invited into. And the more Magteld and I tried to draw him out of it, the more he resisted, withdrew and flew into rages.

A diagnosis is a significant event for all kinds of reasons. It's the end of one road, as well as the start of a new one. It should, finally, give us some concrete answers from a team of trained specialists, rather than the cautious, circumspect suggestions we've had so far (that's not meant, incidentally, as a cricitism of the therapists who have seen him so far; indeed, it's to their enormous credit that nobody has tried to jump the gun and declare unilaterally that he is 'definitely' autistic, even though that's the answer we've been craving at times). It will open doors to support services, social workers and disability allowances that suit his needs. And it will put to bed, once and for all, those nagging doubts that still flap around our heads, that perhaps he's not autistic at all and we've just made some appalling misjudgement in our approach to parenting.

So given the potential for relief, why the sense of dread? Perhaps because a final answer is just that: final. The last hopes that he will one day wake up a "normal" child will be extinguished. Being confronted with the knowledge that this is it: that the next 15 years of our lives, at least, will be dominated by the challenge of teaching someone to function in ways that are uncomfortable, and at times utterly alien, to them, is a daunting prospect.

1 comment:

Ciaran said...

All our best to you,
Ciaran & Cior.