Yesterday a friend of mine told me a story that made me feel sad. She knows a large family through her parents and they have a son who is now eleven and quite obviously has Autism. The obviousness of the diagnosis was apparent when he was a toddler. The mother of this boy was encouraged by friends and professionals to seek a diagnosis and help for her son. She declined, passing it off as a language delay and never sought services for this child. He is now eleven and unable to communicate, his behavior is getting increasingly more difficult for the family to control. Now I am told that these parents wish that they had provided their son with the services that he needed when he was younger because now it is too late to get some of those things going. I have trouble understand why parents would not want to help their children be the best that they can be. Here is a boy that could have learned to communicate and have life skills to help him become more independent. The problem is that when these services are started too late, they are that much harder to learn. The chances now of living independently are quire slim for this child. There isn't much hope here because of the parents unwillingness to embrace their child for who he is.
Later that afternoon I went over to pick one of my daughters up from a playdate and was invited in to have a glass of wine. Another mother was also there to pick up her son from a playdate. We were talking and she told me that she had a ten-year-old boy with Autism and that he went to a special school in our area. He has been in this school since he was a toddler and that combined with extra therapy at home has helped him to become verbal and independent in many areas despite his diagnosis. This mother told me that she and her husband decided to ignore the advice of a well-meaning pediatrician who told them that it was just a language delay. They thought it was more and actively worked to get services for their son at an early age. They are now reaping the benefits of this. There is hope here because the parents are willing to accept their child for who he is.
I am not trying to be critical of parents. I am a parent. I am also a specialist who works with children with disabilities. I would like to think that I would be able to be strong and put my pride behind me if I had a child with a physical or cognitive impairment. It takes time. But when people throw you a lifeline early on and encourage diagnostic testing and intervention, why not take it. What would any parent have to lose by trying these options. It seems to me that they have everything to lose by not doing anything.