I was driving home from dropping Eliana to her weekly social skills, Occupational Therapy and Speech Therapy session. I began to think back to how far our sassy six-year-old has come in the last four years. It seems not all that long ago that a diagnosis was the biggest gift we didn’t think we wanted.
Four years ago, we had just moved back to Australia after living in Cambodia for five years. We knew that our (then) two year old had a developmental delay, including a severe speech delay – she was not talking at all. Nothing.
Within a week of coming home and amid all the reverse culture shock and sadness at leaving our Cambodian home, we made a time to see our sister-in-law, a speech pathologist, for guidance. She was incredibly kind and loving but did not sugarcoat just how delayed our sweet girl was and the long road ahead of us.
Our sister-in-law submitted a referral to the WA Child Development Services. She gave us a copy of what she had sent, pre-warning me of how brutally honest and confronting it was.
It’s been years now, and I still tear up remembering how utterly broken my mummy heart felt knowing that there was no quick fix and that things would not be easy for our sweet girl. However, at the same time, I was so very grateful that she was now on the road to getting the help she needed.
The gift of a diagnosis
“A formal diagnosis would not change who I am or who she is. It would not define our identity.”
It is interesting to think that four years ago I was open to the concept of Eliana getting diagnosed with ‘something’, as long as it was not Autism. I can’t even articulate why that was my thought process. I just remember praying ‘Please God, let it be anything other than Autism’. However, something changed as we moved toward a diagnosis, and talked with more people and met parents with special needs children. My whole way of thinking changed. I distinctly remember my prayers changing to ‘Please God, let her be diagnosed with Autism.’
You see, I realised that a formal diagnosis would not change who I am or who she is. It would not define our identity. A diagnosis could be a gift. It would (and DOES) give her access to all the therapy and help she needs to be the best version of herself. This diagnosis has opened up doors, opportunities and critical funding for her therapies.
Here and now
Four years later, she is now a beautiful and boisterous six-year-old. She is loved by her grade one classmates at our local mainstream school. She is starting to speak and has grown in too many ways for me to list here. I am not saying that life is easy because it is not, but I am incredibly proud of her and who she is becoming. I’m also proud of who she is helping me to become as a person and as her mother.
So dear mum, parent or caregiver; know there is nothing to be feared by your child being given a diagnosis or ‘label’. It will not define them or you. But it WILL enable you to access the help you need for them to flourish in life in their own unique way.
And that is worth it. I promise.