Convincing another special needs mom my son has autism

Cathy Blatnik


When Dominic was first diagnosed with Autism at 2 1/2 years old, I felt like I had tell EVERYONE. If he didn't talk when asked to, I would say, "oh, it's because he has autism." Fast forward to nine years later, the point we are at now. This past Sunday, I was at a wonderful event and I was meeting new people. I was chatting with two young women and I told both of them separately that Dominic had autism in the course of conversation. Both of them had the same response back, "we thought so, but didn't want to ask." I told them basically they could ask me anything.

I know that not all special needs parents are that way, but over these years, that is the parent I have evolved into. Anyways, recently I had a discussion with another special needs mom, though I'm not quite sure that I would call it that. It was more like I was in a courtroom and I was having to defend myself. Let me explain. I had a special needs mom tell me something a long, long time ago that has stuck with me and probably always will. This mom was one of the nicest, sweetest women in the world that has since moved away. Her son has both Down Syndrome and autism. One of the times we chatted, she said, "you have it much harder than me, people take one look at my son and know, when people look at Dominic they can't tell."

The worst things my family and I get from other people aren't comments, but "dirty looks," because they think he is misbehaving. I used to be so ultra sensitive about it, but not anymore. I just smile and move on. Okay, back to the mom I was talking to recently. This particular gal (who has a son with autism) is what I would call an acquaintance. We chit-chatted for a minute or two and then she proceeded to challenge me as to whether Dominic has autism.

She kept hammering away at me and then I finally said, "yeah, he talks to himself and has other autistic traits." She eventually backed down, once I said that. Yikes, I have never had to convince another mom of something like that. Wouldn't it be great if diagnosing autism was like when you take a home pregnancy test? One line for no and two lines for yes?? Unfortunately, that is not the way it works. Diagnosis is based on a set of criteria. According to the website, mayoclinic.org:

"Autism spectrum disorder is a serious neurodevelopmental disorder that impairs a child's ability to communicate and interact with others. It also includes restricted repetitive behaviors, interests and activities. These issues cause significant impairment in social, occupational and other areas of functioning." "The term "spectrum" in autism spectrum disorder refers to the wide range of symptoms and severity."

Once someone knows that Dominic has autism, the next question usually is, "so, where does he fall on the spectrum?" I try very hard not to judge other parents (whether their child has special needs or not), because I wouldn't want someone to judge me. Wow, talking to that mom earlier in the week, I immediately felt on the defensive. I didn't get upset, I think mainly because I was so taken aback by her boldness. If anything, I think my reaction was more of shock. I really wish I would have been better equipped to handle her.


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