When Debbie was first diagnosed with Autism, Facebook was not on my radar. Online communities were not the norm. And girls who had Autism? No way, no how! Totally unheard of! And even though I knew she had Autism, I took every online test there was to prove that she didn’t have Autism. And for every online test I took, it just proved to me that we all had a little bit of Autism. This is our journey ~ Ketchup With a Side of Autism: From Anger to Acceptance.
When Debbie was 5 years old, she was officially diagnosed as having Autism. While I knew that was the case, I was swimming in the Sea of Denial. It didn’t help that the team of professionals who diagnosed her, went against every best practice I had learned in my own teaching career. They were blunt. They were unsympathetic. They didn’t want to hear our thoughts and opinions. And because I felt like we were fighting the piranhas of the educational world, I wasn’t about to budge. I was uncooperative. I was rude. I was a spoiled brat and I was angry.
It wasn’t fair. Strangers sitting around a table imposing their thoughts and opinions on my little girl. Debbie had fought and beaten cancer. What did these callous individuals know about my daughter? As far as I was concerned, they didn’t know squat! Debbie had been receiving Special Ed, Speech and Language, and Occupational Therapy services since she was two years old. Sticking a label on her wasn’t going to change the types or amount of services she was receiving. In the county I taught in, a parent could waive the label of Autism until their child was nine. Didn’t Debbie deserve the same courtesy? According to this team, the answer was an emphatic and resounding, “NO!” These ivory tower wannabees sat in a circle and each of them said one word. The dreaded word. The word that made me want to close my eyes, cover my ears, and scream at the top of my lungs, “I can’t hear you! I can’t hear you! I! CAN’T! HEAR! YOUUUU!!!!” Autism. Autism. Autism. Repeated over and over and over again. I was nauseous. I was in tears. I was ready to sue.
Vince was my rock. He had been since we began dating. He was the sea of calm in my ocean of chaos. He held me back that day and when we were finally home, he allowed me to scream and yell every creative expletive I could think of until at last, I collapsed in an exhausted heap. And then the fight to “fix” and “save” Debbie from Autism began. How I was going to fight this mysterious monster was beyond me at the time. But I was a woman on a mission. I had a computer and Google at my disposal. I wasn’t going to leave any stone unturned. Come hell or high water, I was going to make this better and beat this thing called Autism!