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When the Pieces Fit

In the post below, one mom awaiting a diagnosis explains how once she began to research autism to help her boyfriend find information about his son, she realized how much the pieces fit. "As I read more on Asperger's, the pieces all began to fall in place. Every quirk my son has fit perfectly."

I've been aware of autism for awhile. I have several friends with family members (children or siblings) who live with autism. But this week, it has reached my life in a more direct way than I ever dreamed it would.  I met my boyfriend's three-year-old son last weekend and there has been some discussion about the possibility of autism in his life.  He hasn't diagnosed yet, but it's probably just a matter of time.  That circumstance led me to begin a much more intensive study into what autism actually is. That's when everything changed.

I'm a mother myself, of two boys, ages six and eight.  While my six-year-old has always been a typical all-around all-star type of kid, my instincts as a mom have always felt like something was just "off" with my older son. I won't say wrong.  Just different.  He's always been socially awkward and just had tiny little quirks here and there.  He's brilliant.  We've never studied a single spelling word, yet he almost won the second grade spelling bee.  In fact, the only reason he lost was his strange, oddly halted speech pattern... It made it sound like he added an extra letter to his word.  I'm sure that sounds familiar to you.  I could go on, but explaining his symptoms and my suspicions isn't the purpose of this blog.

As I dug into my research for my boyfriend's son, I began to see my own. It was like a light slowly filtering into a place that had been very shadowy and confusing.  I finally understand the reason behind the autism puzzle pieces logo.  I never got it before.  But that's what life has been like...It's like someone dumped a bunch of jumbled puzzle pieces in my lap, but I never had the box lid to see the picture and I never even knew if the pieces really fit together to form one cohesive image or not.  As I read more on Asperger's, the pieces all began to fall in place.  Every quirk he has fit perfectly once I began to look at things through that lens. That logo... There couldn't possibly be a better image to describe what it feels like when those pieces start to fit.

I do have an appointment with our doctor tomorrow. I'm already pretty certain of the diagnosis. I just want her to know for herself too, so we can work together to address my son's challenges and encourage his strengths. I don't even feel like Asperger's is a bad thing. He's not broken.  There's nothing "wrong" with him.  He just has a set of personality traits, both strengths and weaknesses, that can be categorized with this particular label, just like an athletic kid can be called athletic, or a smart kid can be called smart.  It's nothing more than a descriptor, which can be an incredibly useful tool in understanding my child and helping him reach his full potential with the set of strengths and weaknesses he has.  He's still my kid, the same kid he's always been...It's just that now, I finally have so much more insight into who that kid really is, what makes him tick. I feel like I can finally get past those confusing barriers and get to know my own child better than I ever have before.  And that is exciting and beautiful.

I'm not really sure why I'm writing this.  I'm not asking for help or guidance or suggestions.  I'm blessed to have a very good friend whose son has Asperger's and I know she will walk with me through this every step of the way.  I think I'm writing more to say that I get it.  I get the puzzle.  And in part, I'm writing because I'm a writer and it helps me process my own thoughts and feelings.  But more than anything, I'm a helper... I want my life to help others, in every way it can.  So please, take this letter, the thoughts and heart that it contains and share it with anyone you believe would benefit from reading it.  If it can help someone adjust their perspective on a sometimes terrifying diagnosis, then it is worth it.  Sometimes perspective is all it takes to change an ordeal into an adventure.  And I look forward to many years of sharing the adventure of life with my son.

Do you or someone you know have concerns about your child's development as well? The Autism Speaks First Concern to Action Tool Kit is designed to provide families with specific resources and tools to help guide you on the journey from your first concern to action. The 100 Day Kit is designed to help families make the best possible use of the 100 days following an autism diagnosis.

The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.