Autism – to label or not to label, that is the question. Have you been to your doctor about your child and been made to feel as if you were banging your head off a brick wall? Or quite possibly you have been told that a speech delay is common in boys and perhaps mom or dad is just being a bit too neurotic about it? If you have been down this route then you are certainly not alone. In Ireland the consensus now among many in the medical profession is that there is not really an increase in the number of autistic children out there but instead us parents are concocting the symptoms to claim state benefits by unjustly labeling our children.
If you have already been told by a number of people that your child is Autistic and more importantly if you the child’s parent who knows this part of you better than anyone else has an instinctual inner feeling that something is not right then chances are your suspicions are rarely unfounded. Recently a more enlightened member of the medical profession reiterated this fact to me, she said that a concerned mother or father who is ignored by their doctor is doing a great injustice to the child in question. So if you already have an innate belief that your child is different or has issues that need to be addressed then in most cases you are valid in your concerns.
A concerned parent does not want their child to be labeled as Autistic but if their the child does actually have autism then the sooner that this is recognized, faced and addressed the quicker it can be acted on and the better the outcome for everyone in the long run. Any one in the field of psychology, social care or child care will reiterate how important early intervention is for the child on the Autistic Spectrum. But this is practically impossible to access if you are still being told to wait and see, give the child a chance, you are just being neurotic, paranoid and that the child may still talk or perform other social skills when they are ready.
The best course of action on how to proceed in the diagnosis and treatment of Autism is not always easy to figure out. It is undoubtedly an emotionally fraught experience that will leave you drained and confused. However the knowledge on how to best deal with this unpredicted dilemma is best answered by those who are actually on the Autistic Spectrum. The general consensus among people with autism tends to be that if you are autistic then you feel already labeled before any official diagnosis is made or any official autistic title is bestowed upon you. Many children who went through childhood with undiagnosed autism will tell you that they already felt clearly different and were perceived in school and throughout life as being weird, a freak or rather eccentric unless they were told why they behaved the way they did and received the help they needed at a young age.
Experts in the fields of psychology and psychiatry say that ideally Early Intervention for the Autistic child should begin at the age of two. This gives the child the best possible chance of acquiring the skills necessary to interact with the outside world effectively and thus save them from a life time of low self esteem, a lack of confidence in themselves and a myriad of other common complications such as social anxiety issues, depression, alcoholism, drug abuse and anti social behavioral. So consequently being labeled as autistic is a release, a blessing, an awakening and being given an official diagnosis frees the autistic person rather than hindering them.
Any disability is a life altering experience and on interviewing a man in his thirties with ADHD AND dyslexia which remained undiagnosed until recently I asked him, if you had been labeled as having ADHD and dyslexia when you were four or five, would it have devastated you or would it have been a huge relief? He said he would have hugged the bearer of this news and said now I know why I am different and I am going to get the help that I need. A label only appears to really matter to those people who are not on the autistic spectrum. For those people that are autistic then they have already acquired internal labels and scars that have clearly set them apart from the general population whether they have ever been given an official diagnosis or not.
Embrace your autistic child they are no less a person they are just on a different path to you, their mind is wired differently but nevertheless they will always be your child and never let pride, ignorance or bad advice stop you from helping this person from reaching their true potential. We can all achieve our goals in life no matter which path we have to travel on to get there.