Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live.
– Dorothy Thompson
Facing the diagnosis of autism is emotional ping-pong. Back and forth the little ball zips. Team Heart versus Team Brain. Courage stands on the sidelines cheering.
Choices in life are dictated by the heart and/or brain. How we choose to cope are telling signs of the team we’re on. Is the diagnosis handled like a dagger to the heart or with relief? Is denial preferred or will only a few tears be shed, eyes dried and autism tackled head on?
When kids are little it is much easier to make excuses for their behaviors. “Timmy can’t hear you because he has an ear infection” or “Emily walks on her toes because she wants to be a ballerina”. At some point, those excuses no longer work. The situation has to be accepted or denied.
How autism is accepted is different for everyone. Do you “out” your child or keep it to yourself hoping recovery will take place before the “quirkiness” is noticed?
Deciding to open up to the outside world and share a life changing moment is a decision filled with mixed emotions. Some may be very open to discussing their child’s diagnosis while others may be more private.
Team Heart’s possible reasons for not outing:
- Guilt (parent feels child has autism because of things they did wrong)
- Fear of rejection by friends, family or community (not being included)
- Embarrassment (reflection of parenting skills, parents must be weird at home, see it as a personal failure)
- Fear of loss of normalcy (dating, marriage)
- Denial (if I don’t admit it doesn’t exist)
- Fear that our children will be written off and not challenged to reach their full potential
- Questions the validity of the diagnosis
Team Brain’s reasons for outing:
- Embracing autism is freeing (no longer have to make exhausting excuses for quirky behavior)
- Finding inner strength (I can face this)
- Allowing your family and friends to support and help you through one of the most challenging situations in your life
- Not healthy for siblings to keep it “private”. Parents send a mixed message to their children.
- Set a positive example for your children. It’s ok to be different. You don’t have to be like everyone else (unique is good).
- Break the stereotypes about autism; show the world a positive example of what autism looks like.
So what about you? Are you Team Heart or Team Brain? We’d love to hear your take on this.