As you know, my baby girl – Alexa, is delayed. I have been giving vague details as to what was going on, as I wasn’t ready yet to really talk about it. Well, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to… I obviously needed to talk about it, but I didn’t know how. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand. I understood the words but still had to process it. It wasn’t that I wanted to put my head in the sand, it was quite the opposite as I knew something was off as early as at least 6 months old. I guess… I didn’t know what to do with the information.
Alexa was diagnosed officially with autism in early November, approximately a few weeks after she turned two. I knew… I knew it was going to happen when I walked into that appointment. I knew when I left the appointment it would be official and I was scared. Scared of what this label would mean for my amazing, super smart, wonderful baby girl. She didn’t ask for this label. She didn’t ask for everything that was going to come with it – good or bad. She was my sweet, precious, innocent baby girl. And, I could not protect her from this.
In the second week of January she started at the autism center. I did a field placement there when I was in school for CYCW, so it eased my mind knowing what they would be doing in there. Still, I was very nervous about her going. I met with the two people who would be handling her case, and they met her. She seemed to like them right away. And she started therapy – 4 hours a day, Monday through Friday. Right now, I could not ask for a better team to be with Alexa.
During the next 6 months, our little family went through many emotions. For Alexa, she blossomed in this program. She has come so far. She can express herself with so many words. She is communicating. She understands the word “No”. She is now walking on grass and sand like it’s no big deal (before she was terrified). When she was 1.5 years old, she used to cry when we got to the park. Melted down when she went near the swings. Now, at 2.5 years old, it’s her favourite thing… And only melts down when it’s time to leave. Alexa doesn’t let the “label” of autism hold her back.
For myself, over the past 6 months. Well, I went to blaming myself – what could I have done differently in the pregnancy to prevent her from having this. To not wanting to get out of bed. Crying… Then one day I reached out to someone who I saw on Facebook who had a child with autism as well, and she explained to me it gets easier. She told me that she too was scared people would treat her child differently, however, that was not the case at all. The words she told me that stuck with me the most were “OK. Now that I know this, I know how to help”. Talking to her helped me processes. I went from not knowing how to tell people she had autism, to well… I’m writing about it haha. Every day did get easier. I still worry about the future. I still worry people will not understand her. And, I worry about people judging her. Slowly, I am learning… Not to worry about it. (It’s a long, slow battle… But I like to think I am winning)
The thing is, it was me who was making this label of autism a negative thing. It’s not a label… And It’s not something negative. While I was processing what this all means for her, and basically stopping my life in my own freak out, Alexa was getting the help and support from the center, and from family. She just grew, overcame hurdles and she now has coping skills to manage her life. Alexa carried on with her life. She didn’t let it stop her. Because of the diagnosis, she was actually able to move forward in her life, as before the tools weren’t there to help her. Before she was stuck.
Being autistic was not the worst thing that could have happened to her. Not at all. Frankly it was quite the opposite. It means she learns a little differently and that’s OK. She may have to try harder at some things, and other things will come easier than other kids. And again, that’s OK. She still is Alexa to the core. My fierce, independent, curious, strong, funny, little girl.
P.S. I know I didn’t talk about Stephen’s reaction to everything and how it affect our marriage. That will be in an upcoming blog.