I could tell from the Health Visitor’s face. We were at home and she was listening earnestly to me express all of my concerns and ask her a million questions. She was guarded with her replies. I knew all the answers anyway, i’d spent hours upon hours trawling through Google, but I didn’t tell her that. I was hoping she’d tell me something different; i was just being dramatic, just being a paranoid mum! She didn’t though. She made notes, didn’t say much, but she looked… concerned. It was there in her eyes. She said she would arrange for us to see the Paediatrician as soon as possible. That i should try not to worry just yet. Ha good one!
We decided then to get a private assessment with an autism specialist. I couldn’t bear waiting around – if this is what we suspected, i needed to know. The sleepless nights, the anxiety, the fear – what’s the point hanging around and working myself into a complete state. We found a specialist in Manchester and made the appointment for her to come to our house. She was excellent. She was unable to ‘officially’ diagnose anything but she carried out a thorough assessment, the conclusion being that Franklin was presenting significant difficulties across the 3 central symptoms of ASD (the triad of impairments). His strong tendency towards repetitive behaviour and his sensory sensitivity were also significant. CRACK!!! my heart broke.
I didn’t, couldn’t, talk about it with anyone other than my husband at this time. I knew if i tried to i’d cry. I wasn’t ready. I was petrified and ridiculously emotional with it.
The Paediatrician appointment came shortly after. We took Franklin in to meet the doctor which was a challenge in itself. Franklin screamed for the first half an hour of the appointment. Luckily my husband was with me to help placate/restrain Franklin while i spoke to the Paediatrician. Once he calmed down she was able to do her thing. It was a very thorough assessment and we had to answer numerous questions. We asked her to be open with us, begged her to. She confirmed that he was evidencing a significant amount of the symptoms all pointing towards Autism. There it was again… the A word.
She would refer Franklin straightaway for Portage home visiting service, 1 to 1 support in Nursery by the Early Years Support Team and Speech & Language therapy. She would see us again in a few weeks. I was glad they were getting on with it, or was this a double edged sword? I started fretting that they think he’s severe.
The Paediatrician explained Autism isn’t something she would usually highlight at a first appointment, but she felt it was necessary on this occasion to state ‘suspected Autism Spectrum Disorder’ in her report of today, to make the other professionals who are and will be involved going forward with Franklin aware.
I was beyond horrified when the letter arrived, seeing it in writing was another level.
After further visits and assessments with the Paediatrician, as well as numerous sessions with Portage, Speech and Language etc, the Paediatrician confirmed now was an appropriate time for Franklin to be referred to a Panel for an official diagnosis. This would require all the professionals involved with Franklin (herself as his Paediatrician, Speech & Language, Portage, Early Years Advisory team, nursery etc) submitting reports outlining their investigations, observations and analysis, and the Panel would make a final decision.
We received Franklin’s official diagnosis on 15th March 2017, the week before his 3rd birthday. I was sent an appointment with the Paediatrician, but this time they didn’t need to see Franklin. I braced myself.
I didn’t sob in her office, I held it together, just about, until i got to the car and rang my hubby. Then the floodgates opened.
It took me a couple of weeks to close them, the enormity of it completely overwhelmed me. Scared the crap out of me to be honest. A landslide of tears, trepidation and several bottles of wine later, i knew i had to (wo)man up. This isn’t going to disappear, ever, so i need to throw myself into it. The real hard work starts here. I vowed to work my backside off to give Franklin every chance of being the best Franklin he can possibly be. Autism is a part of him, a part of all of us now, but it doesn’t have to define him.
It’s not the end of the world, just the beginning of a new one.