“The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance”
– Nathaniel Branden
Hi! It’s Tito again! It’s my turn to continue with our story…
People, when receiving life-changing news (such as learning that your child has an autism), will most probably lead them to go through the stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In some way, Jecelyn and myself have gone through with these stages while dealing with the kids being on the autism spectrum.
Just to regress a bit, even before Zander was diagnosed with autism, Jecelyn had a miscarriage of what was supposed to be our third child. This was in August 2016 – the baby had no heartbeat at 8 weeks of pregnancy. We were still somehow grieving for our loss when we learned of Zander’s condition. You could probably imagine how difficult it was, especially for Jecelyn, to cope with several challenges – one after the other. It was both emotionally and physically draining for her. But being a tough cookie as she is; she has been able to manage, so far. But being that tough didn’t exempt her (and myself) from going through the stages of grief.
So, going back to the boys being diagnosed with ASD, we did go through the DENIAL stage. Most especially for Phil, since all the while we thought he was just a normal, typical baby with slight developmental delays due to being born premature. We really couldn’t believe it at first. I was even convinced back then that the DevPed was wrong. But as the days passed after his diagnosis, we could observe that he did have some red flags for autism (e.g. sensitivity to sound, difficulty to adapt to new environment, lack of social interaction, etc.). For Zander’s case, the denial stage kicked-in before we had him assessed. We didn’t think that he had autism. This is probably because we didn’t understand autism as much back then. That is why for us, having AWARENESS is important. Once we were aware of the condition, getting confirmation of the diagnosis was easier. And being able to confirm the red flags helped us to get out of the denial stage faster.
We have also gone a little bit through the ANGER stage. There were times when we asked why must these things happen to us? What have we done wrong to deserve this? Because it felt like there were consecutive curve balls being thrown our way. Thankfully, we kept faith that the Lord does not give us trials we could not handle. Taking comfort on this faith, we continue to press on.
For us, the BARGAINING stage was somehow experienced while we were waiting for Zander’s assessment result. Oh, how we would have given everything we could just to get a positive result from the assessment – we hoped then that Zander was a neuro-typical child.
And then, there was DEPRESSION… we really felt sad, and for a time – hopeless. Especially when we were told that autism is a lifetime condition. We got really worried for the future of the boys. Will they still be able to lead normal lives? Have good friends and meaningful relationships? Will they be able to go to college? Will they be self-sufficient – because we know as parents, we couldn’t be with them forever? All these worries, if goes unchecked will bring any person down.
Fortunately, both Jecelyn and myself were willing to do all that we can to help our boys cope with their conditions. This may probably be the reason why we were able to reach the ACCEPTANCE stage in less than a year from Zander’s diagnosis. Having been able to accept the situation has given us the opportunity to focus more on how we can address the issue, instead on dwelling on how bad the situation is. We just wanted to provide the best care and support that we can provide for the boys – and this has made a lot of difference.
Currently, the twins are undergoing regular OT and early intervention sessions. This has helped tremendously improve their behavior and social interactions. They are still socially awkward and would still have occasional meltdowns, but the frequency has been greatly reduced. I attribute most of this to the early acceptance of the condition – and not to forget, the efforts and patience of the boys’ therapists and SpEd teachers.
So, to parents out there with children with similar condition, my unsolicited advice is: “Your child’s diagnosis is NOT the end of the world. Get through the stages of grief as fast as you can – learn to accept the situation. Seek help and get support.” We can make it through… and so will our children.