In my experience, the most likely person to be in denial of a child having a disorder like Autism is the parents, primarily the father. However, in my family’s case, my wife and I never denied it for a moment, everyone else did!
At first our family, trying to be supportive, told us that some kids are just like that, some kids are just quirky, some kids just don’t talk until they’re older. When you observe each individual ‘sign’, they weren’t wrong. Every sign that a child has Autism can be viewed as just a quirky thing that some kids do, when you look at them individually. But when you group all the signs together to form a diagnosis, you realize that they’re not just quirks.
Unfortunately, no one really spent time with Cameron as much as we did so no one could really ever know. Being in denial was a matter of convenience for some because it also meant being supportive at the same time, helping us feel that there was nothing wrong. While that is appreciated, it’s not what we needed, as parents. What we needed more was information. “Awareness” means more than just knowing it exists.
The next case of denial came from the most unlikely of sources, our family doctor. He is an extremely smart and gifted doctor and has a wealth of knowledge in many areas, we are lucky to have found him. But when we brought up the word Autism with him, he immediately dismissed it, assuring us that his quirks and delayed speech are fine.. there was still a lot of time for him to “catch up”.
Did you know that Einstein didn’t talk until he was four? Did you know that he didn’t form complete sentences until he was nine? And he was fine! He was brilliant.
Perhaps, but I’d venture a guess that if Einstein were a child today, he’d be diagnosed with Autism. And the thing with Autism is, no two children are the same. maybe he beat the odds and went on to become a brilliant man, but obviously that isn’t true for everyone. Telling me that Einstein was a delayed speaker does not put my mind at ease when I look at my son at the age of 2.5 who is still unable speak.
Eventually we got into workshops, got speech therapy for Cameron, learned all new ways to teach him, diet tips and more and by the time Cameron was 3, he had a pretty full vocabulary. He’s approaching 5 at the time of this writing and he can speak as well as any other 5 year old.
The reason I mention this is that we’re still facing denial from family and friends who now approach us saying “he is so smart, he seems to be a perfectly normal child… are you sure he ever really did have Autism?”
It hurts a little, to have people dismiss 2 years of very hard work that we’ve done… saying that he must have been perfectly fine all along. But it’s also very flattering and a wonderful compliment as well. After all, what could be better than for people to think an Autistic child is not Autistic??
Those who are close enough to us to spend a decent amount of time with Cameron know the truth. They see it. They realize the extent of what Autism can do when a child is at their worst.
All I can say is, if you suspect Autism, or you know someone who suspects it in their child… don’t deny it. Don’t be supportive by comparing their child to Einstein. Instead, help them get the information they need to find out for sure. Maybe, with your help, they’ll get their child all the help they need that in 2 years others will ask them “are you sure they ever really were Autistic?”