Listening Helps Prepare Me for Autism Diagnosis

Listening Partnerships with Emilie Leeks

Even from when he was a little baby, we had known that one of our children was a little bit different from other children his age. It was difficult to put our finger on it, and it didn't really affect how we got by at home, nursery managed everything ok and so we weren't desperately concerned.

However, once our son started at school when he had just turned 5, it was like they were trying to fit a square peg into a round hole! After a few months, we decided to start the process towards a possible diagnosis of an autism spectrum condition, in the hope that it would give us some clarity and help us to understand our little one's way a bit better.

Clearing My Emotions

After an extremely long wait (nearly two years), we finally had a date for the appointment. We had done a lot of research during that time (that's just the way we like to approach things, but fully understand that it isn't for everyone!), and in terms of our thinking and understanding about the appointment, we felt ready. But I really wasn't sure how I was feeling about it all emotionally.

  • Did I want him to get a diagnosis to confirm what I believed?
  • Did I want them to reassure me that everything was ok and that he would grow out of it?
  • Were there other diagnoses that I hadn't considered?
  • Did I want this appointment at all?

I decided to use all my Listening Partnerships in the week leading up to the appointment to talk about it, to ensure that I cleared all the emotions out and would be thinking clearly at the appointment itself.

I remember talking about feeling nervous as I wanted them to see both his ‘kooky' side but also how amazing he is (i.e. what we see). I had a little rant about the ‘reassurance'  I've had from wonderful, well-meaning parents who I had discussed my concerns with – “Oh, you shouldn't worry, all children do that sometimes,” made me feel like I was going mad, that it was all in my head!

As I talked, I trembled, stood up, shook my shoulders, arms, hands, and stamped a bit. I also sometimes just sat quietly with some of the nervous feelings that came up for me and acknowledged that I was having them and that it was ok to have them. This was something relatively new to me, as I used to just try to squash my feelings down and hide them away, as I thought that meant they were gone!

Catching Hidden Concerns

In talking the appointment through in my Listening Partnerships, I didn't think I had particular concerns, it was more as a safety net just in case anything came up for me.

And it did!

I had a simple but very insightful question from one of my listening partners, who asked me, “What would be the worst thing they could say?”

Before, I would have said that obviously it would be awful to hear that our precious child is indeed on the autism spectrum, but when I really thought about this question, I suddenly realised that the worst thing would be if they said it was nothing, that he was actually like all the other children. That would really turn my world on its head – given that for years we had always felt like there was something unusual (not bad, just different) about him, and I would wonder how I had got it so wrong.

Moving Towards a Diagnosis

On the day of the appointment we were rushing around trying to get our three children to where they needed to be, so I didn't have time to think too much about how it was going to go. And when I got into the appointment and we began to talk, listen, and answer their questions, I was surprisingly clear-headed. After they had met both with us parents, and with our son separately, they came back to tell us that, yes, they did think he was on the autism spectrum, and gave him a diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

And I felt relieved!

There was also some sadness, which I will have to process at a later date (I am quite sure my listening partners will help me here too!), but it was within the framework of knowing for sure that if they had said there was nothing unusual going on for him, it would have felt much worse – that it would have meant that all my instincts as a parent were wrong.

I now feel I can move forward from this diagnosis in a good frame of mind, and I know I wouldn't be anywhere near as positive if I hadn't had such an invaluable chance to clear out any emotions that were clogging up my thinking. I can't recommend Listening Partnerships enough!

From the Hand in Hand Toolbox:

To find out how Listening Time can ease your parenting stress read One Question that Blew my Mind

To find parents looking to exchange listening partnerships check our Facebook and Yahoo groups.

Hand in Hand's self-guided course Building a Listening Partnership helps you get the most from your listening partnerships.

Emilie Leeks lives in Berkshire, UK with her husband and three children. She is a certified Hand in Hand Instructor with additional experience in speech, language and communication issues.

Find her through her blog Journeys-in-Parenting where this post was originally posted or through her Facebook page.

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