Even though I was anticipating a spectrum diagnosis for Mr. C, having that diagnosis has made a surprising difference in my ability to cope with some of his more frustrating behaviors. It has also opened my eyes to other behaviors to which I've been more or less oblivious.
In contrast to his sister, my son was such a pleasant and easygoing toddler that there was no indication of anything non-neurotypical. As my daughter's behavior improved through therapy and medication, his began to worsen. Its taken a lot of time and help to begin to see improvement for him. I didn't understand at first that the difficulties I was experience as a result of my son's behavior were small potatoes comparied to the difficulties that HE was experiencing as a result of his autism and sensory issues.
I am embarassed to admit it, but with the psychologist's report in front of me, it finally clicked into place. His behaviors are incredibly less of a struggle for me to cope with. I find myself less frustrated because I am more aware of why he reacts the way he does. I begin to understand that our expectations of him and our attempts to elicit expected behaviors from him have been unfair in that we were often approaching him more in the way one would approach a neurotypical child. He lacked the context for the "why." That doesn't mean he didn't try, but even when he was behaving appropriately it was more to the credit of his own ability to adapt than to our parenting.
My children have dealt with so much in their young lives. They have overcome obstacles that I am convinced would have overwhelmed me if I had to face them.
The mask for the nitrous and the blowing air were too difficult for him. After we tried for an hour to get started on the procedure, the dentist and I agreed that we would reschedule and try to get the cavity filled under sedation instead. But my son, he had been promised a particular toy if he let the dentist work on his tooth. So began the negotiations. No, he couldn't wear the mask. No, the dentist did not think he would be able to numb my son if he didn't have some way of relaxing him, so the fast drill was out of the question. But my son agreed to open really wide and to hold up his hand when he needed a break, and the dentist agreed to use the really slow (and loud) drill and only drill for five seconds at a time. With a fully negotiated agreement between them, they worked together as a team and the tooth was drilled, the cavity filled, and my son got his toy.
And this is why I know my son has more courage in his little toe than I have in my whole body. There is no manner of persuasion on this earth that could make me sit in the dentist's chair and let him drill my tooth without any sort of novocain or pain relief. NONE.
I don't know if there is ever any way that we as parents get to compensate for our past sins, but if there were my biggest wish would be to get a do-over on all those times I got frustrated and out of temper with my children for behaviors they could not actually control.
I suppose its funny that having an autism diagnosis is a relief. But it is. Its the opposite of every negative thing you might consider it to be. It removes the uncertainty and the questions about the puzzle that my son has presented. It opens new opportunities for him and for all of us. It reveals him in all of his unique beauty and mystery, lets us see him in a new way.
Once I might have reported this experience at the dentist by complaining. Feeling frustrated because it took so incredibly long, that we had to go through so many gyrations to get the filling done. Now, though, the experience is transformed through the lens of autism into one of triumphant success, an opportunity to celebrate the unique way my child negotiates his world in accordance with his needs.
My son was not difficult. My son was BRAVE.