It's the one year anniversary of my first post here at Hopeful Parents.
That post, The Wheels on the Bus, was about my first public acceptance of my son's special needs. I wrote about getting him off the van after his summer school program, and how it helped me come to terms with his autism spectrum diagnosis. While never in denial about it inside my house, the van rides marked my first time showing the world that my son was "different" than the other kids on our block.
And now, one year later, I'm back on that road again. This time with my youngest. My two year old was diagnosed on the spectrum last week.
But this time, the acceptance isn't coming as easily.
In her book, The Five Stages of Grief, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross described the stages that people move through as they cope with loss and grief. She lists the stages as denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
When my middle son was diagnosed back in December 2009, I knew something was "off". He needed help. We needed help. The diagnosis saved us, confirming for us that every missed milestone was as a result of this disorder, and not because of bad parenting or bad behavior. The diagnosis "fit".
I don't remember feeling grief at all. It was more like relief.
This time I'm having trouble. I'm firmly planted in stage one: denial.
I still don't see the red flags cited by the doctors in their evaluation. I don't see the limited play skills, or the reduced eye contact. I don't see the inability to follow through on an activity.
I don't see how his refusal to sing "Happy Birthday" to a play-doh birthday cake is a sign of rigidity when he sings just fine at home to a Lego birthday cake. I don't understand why it's a concern that he shut down after two hours of evaluators taking away a new toy every 30 seconds. I don't see how a doctor can tell me that this is just the way my son is after spending an hour looking at him through a one-way mirror.
I still can't believe it. And it doesn't help that the people who know my son are just as shocked as I am.
I know what I'm supposed to do. I know what phone calls to make to get the early intervention therapy started, I know who to call at the preschool to get things ready for his IEP meeting when he's three. I've informed his speech therapist and the school district about what services we'll need. I've told friends and family.
This road to acceptance should look familiar to me. But it's paved very differently this time around. The first time, the diagnosis gave me the ability to explain my middle son's behaviors and difficulties. I hit the ground running, ready to get him anything and everything he needed.
But I'm not running this time. I can't even take that step out of denial.
A friend sent me this quote: “You never get good at grief. Just because you have done it often doesn’t make you good at it."
I have lived through grief before. I will live through this again.
And I know at some point I'll get to acceptance. I'll just be taking baby steps this time.
"I always waste my time just wondering
What the next man thinks of me
I'll never do exactly what I want
And I'll sculpt my life for your acceptance" - Road to Acceptance by Green Day
Alysia Butler is a stay at home mom to three boys, two who are now diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. When she's not filling out paperwork or making therapy appointments, she writes about her kids and other things at Try Defying Gravity and on twitter at @trydefyinggrav.