Personal story about diagnosis of Autism: a parent's experience


At seven years of age, I thought Brian was a bit eccentric but otherwise pretty normal. He was aloof, didn't respond to affection well and could be very nasty to his little brother, but then there are plenty of seven-year-old boys like that around the world. He always asked so many questions, far more than normal, and was obsessed with how things work.


My wife is a professional working with children, and she was the first to raise the possibility of Brian having Aspergers syndrome. I disagreed, especially as Brian was pretty similar to me as a child and I turned out okay. But Brian was seen by the school guidance officer who said Aspergers was a possibility. The next stop was the neighborhood doctor who agreed enough to make a referral to a pediatrician.


The assessment process

The pediatrician agreed that it was full-blown Asperger’s and explained about the Autism Spectrum Disorders and then referred us to the Children & Youth Mental Health Service where a psychiatrist spent time talking to all of us and watching how we all interacted as the kids played with toys in his office. What surprised me was that the psychiatrist spent so much time asking me questions and about my father, brothers and sisters. Wasn't Brian the one suspected of Aspergers or Autism? I figured all of this was just to rule out a dysfunctional family being the cause of his behavior.


A surprising diagnosis

I was bowled over when the psych said Brian had Aspergers syndrome, and I did too! At first I was just stunned, then eventually got quite angry – how could this psychiatrist diagnose me from just chatting for a while?


Julie was very upset by the diagnosis for some months, and perhaps felt a bit despairing of the situation. It’s hard to know as we did drift apart for a while – I thought she may have thought I was the cause if I had Aspergers too, and it was just a difficult time all round.


I think I just pushed all the feelings aside about Brian's diagnosis, and I was very ambivalent about it. I mean what does it really mean? People were saying Albert Einstein probably had Aspergers, and maybe Bill Gates does too, as if Aspergers meant you could be rich and famous. To me, Brian was simply an intelligent, healthy boy who could communicate, but simply had issues in some areas, and strengths in other areas.

The various health professionals we saw probably thought I was denial, as I just thought we’ll just do the best we can whatever the situation. I put other things on hold and decided to just focus on Brian and see what we could do to help him.


Compensating for weaknesses

As for me, I don't know if I'm happy to wear the label of Aspergers syndrome. I'm married and have been for 17 years, although we certainly have our ups and downs. My work history is pretty patchy but we've done okay. I'm really just focusing on early intervention for Brian and helping him to work out how to make friends, see things from other points of view and learn better communication skills. I don't really know if I'm happy for him to wear the label of Asperger’s syndrome either. We never really refer to it with him, but just say that like any kid, he has specific strengths and weaknesses. Like everyone else, he just has to make full use of his strengths, and learn how to compensate for the weaknesses.


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A personal story of a parent's reaction to a diagnosis of Aspergers syndrome for his child