Welcome to a weekly feature on my blog – Ben’s Zone. Written by husband… Ben. A foodie, coffee obsessed, ex-smoking, ex-drinking and Ridgeback loving Dad. Who is also seriously into his fitness. You can find him on the blog (most) Sundays. Enjoy!
My Thoughts on My Son’s Potential Autism Diagnosis
Over the course of this school year my wife and I have been meeting regularly with his teachers to discuss his particular needs in school. As well as gifts in maths and English he also has emotional needs which we felt should be addressed within the school environment as well as the home. It’s been a long struggle and we’ve only recently started to see any signs of progress. Most significant of these has been the suggestion that Logan may sit on the autism spectrum. When it was suggested things seemed to fit for us, his laser focus, sometimes getting lost in tasks; a lot of things we had viewed as just his quirks took on new meaning. But we were happy because, though we are waiting on a diagnosis, we had a framework for understanding his needs and leverage to make sure these needs are met in school.
But it also made me feel weird. I do not have any diagnosis of autism. It’s often been suggested to me that I may also sit on the spectrum and even that I should get a referral to be diagnosed, but I have never done this. I’m content with my career, my family relationships and my social relationships and so I can’t really think how it would help me. But it did cause me to think about some of the things Logan may face in his life. Logan can’t help the way he thinks or the speed at which he thinks any more than I can and yet he’ll have to live in a world where a so called neurotypical norm is dominant.
Logan will receive extra support in the classroom and that’s great, but I also worry that some of it will be aimed at helping him fit in with the world of neurotypical people and I question why this is necessary. We live in a society where we aim (I hope) to celebrate and accept diversity in a physical sense, but yet where people who think and feel in a different way will be moulded to conform to a standard that does not even seem relevant any more? We’re not plains dwelling hunter gatherers any more, our society grows more technology based by the day, it seems evident that the ability to focus to an extreme level may not be obsessional, but necessary for survival. So my son might not be the norm, but the norm is not necessarily the optimum.
If I feel like this, and I do, it begs the question, what’s the issue? He’s no more the child I adored yesterday than he is today. I still find him one of the most interesting people to talk to that I’ve ever met. I’m still confident that he’ll have the skills in life that he needs to achieve his goals, now that the machinery of education is slowly grinding, he should hopefully now get the support he needs in school too.
It’s about how he feels inside. Right now he probably just suspects he’s different, in a few years he’ll know for sure and by the middle of his teens life could well be a lonely place, it was for me. I feel comfortable with myself now, but for decades I simply did not know how to do that and that was lonely, and painful. I don’t want that for my son. I also don’t want my son to change, he’s perfect. What I want is for the notion of so called neurotypical people to be thrown out the window. Everyone is fine with physical diversity so perhaps now is the time to get comfortable with that same range of mental and emotional diversity. To realise, that no, you may not understand my son, or me, and you may be baffled with our obsessions, but perhaps you shouldn’t assume that the person next to you is equally baffled, they may not be. I wonder, if we could get to that level of tolerance whether it would be so necessary for people to copy and paste messages about mental health on their facebook feeds. Perhaps, if people didn’t look towards a way we ‘should’ think and feel they wouldn’t be feeling bad about how they ‘do’ think and feel.