At some time or other in our lives we have been in ‘denial’ about something, or have executed the ‘ostrich technique’ in order to avoid confronting something we know to be an issue.
As a teacher and also as a mother, I’m aware of the difficulty some parents experience in accepting that their child may have a condition such as Autism. My personal experience was perhaps a little different from most in that I intuitively knew from a very young age, that there was something going on with James. Our family had got to a point of complete dysfunction and he just was not developing as he should. I pursued a diagnosis for James. I did every test and assessment I could do prior to my Paediatric review when he was 2 years old. Every therapist we saw mentioned Autism and did indicate that James’ performance and/or behaviour was not typical of his peer group. So the day we received his diagnosis in July 2008 I experienced nothing but feelings of enormous relief. We finally had direction, a way forward, a plan and we could now access the services James so badly needed.
From a distance, I guess it’s easy to ask questions about why some parents deny that their child may be on the Autistic Spectrum. Do they not realise that they are denying their child much needed assistance and intervention? Do they not realise that the help they will be able to access may greatly improve the quality of their own life and that of their child? Can they simply not accept the fact that their child is ‘different’? Is one parent having a harder time accepting the situation than the other? Do they think that people will judge them as parents? Do they worry about their child being victimised, stigmatised, and treated differently? Are they avoiding the ‘label’ of Autism because they feel it’s negative for the child and they don’t wish their child to be pigeon holed, branded? Do they just think the child is going through a ‘phase’ and that with time things might change? It might be some of these things or all of these things.
As parents, friends, teachers and therapists the best thing that we can do to support these families is accept and respect that the journey of these families is their own personal journey and they need to map it and drive it in their own time frame. Often, with time, education and support, these families ultimately will pursue further testing for their child. My personality is such that I like to take things front on and address them, but we don’t all operate the same way. Some people need time to process and time to accept things.
In the end, we generally all make it to the same destination. Our journey along the way may be very different, but with love, respect, support and time, most of us will arrive safely at our destination.