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My son has been diagnosed with autism.

I feel sad, numb and slightly panicked.

It’s been four days since I had my son diagnosed for a condition I suspected he had for the past three years. It’s also the first time I’ve been reluctant to share information about my children. I’m normally so open about everything. I talk about food allergies, yelling, shouting, junk food, obesity, everything.

However I have found it very difficult to confirm that my son Giovanni, 7, has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, what used to be called Aspergers. It’s mild, easy to explain away, but in all honestly I’ve known since he was four. But I kept trying to talk myself out of.

I’ve spoken with mums who have autistic children and as they talk about their lives with their children I’ve felt my stomach clench in knots. “Giovanni does that,” I’d think to myself over and over again. “Giovanni does exactly that”. So then I’d think of all the things he does that prove he doesn’t have Autism Spectrum Disorder.

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He’s so affectionate with me and with our family. He’s so loving. He smiles. He cries. He’s normal!

My husband, children and I had started behaving in a certain way with Giovanni. Without even realising it, we’d adapted to his strange ways, chuckling affectionately as he refused to eat his toasted cheese sandwich because it was a shade too brown or running from the room when the static noise came from the TV. He has trouble making friends, although he has improved slightly in this regard, making two friends on the school bus home, but none that I know of at school.

He isn’t invited to birthday parties by children at school. Not one.

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He sometimes shuts down like a little robot, refusing to do school work or homework.

The toys on his bed head have to be just so.

Each of these things on their own doesn’t prove autism. I even took him to a clinical psychologist one for a diagnosis. She didn’t specialise in autism and I knew her assessment was inadequate. But, I let myself believe he was okay.

My sister keeps texting me the names of celebrities who are ‘on the spectrum’…Bill Gates, Daryl Hannah, Albert Einstein.

I just want him to be happy, and have friends.

Now that we have a proper assessment in hand, I do admit to feeling sad. I don't want his life to be harder. I also feel relief. Now I know what we can do for him. Now I know his language is visual. I understand that he isn't refusing to do school work, but that it just doesn't get through for him.

I've discovered that there are other kids at his school with similar challenges. I've become aware of an entire community of parents, strangers, who have contacted me with help and advice and comfort.

Giovanni is going to be okay because I am going to make sure he is okay. He has come to the perfect family.

I can do this.

I can.

If you would like to find out more about Autism Spectrum Disorder, contact ASPECT.

Want more? Try:

Why autism is not an excuse for the anti-vaccination movement.

"I dropped one child off and a completely different one arrived home."

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