September 11th is a significant date for all Americans. I don't mean to diminish that significance in any way. However, this date now has a new significance for my family. It's a personal anniversary of sorts.
On September 11, 2012, we took Griffin to his Easter Seals evaluation. After months of paperwork, phone interviews, observations, discussions, and heartache, we finally reached the day when Griffin could be evaluated by multiple professionals all day long to see how he was functioning in various categories of development.
After hours of evaluation, we took Griffin out to lunch and then left him with my sister while Jared and I went back to Easter Seals alone to face the panel of professionals to hear their diagnosis.
One year ago today, Griffin was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.
A lot has changed in a year.
For one thing, Asperger's is no longer an actual diagnosis. When the American Psychiatric Association published the newest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-V), they changed the structuring of diagnostic criteria and naming of autism-related disorders.
Now Griffin's diagnosis falls under the umbrella of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). That's about all I understand about the change for now. Several professionals have used the term autistic to describe Griffin (and other children with Asperger's and other Autism Spectrum Disorders), so I find it easier to use that same term.
A year ago we felt overwhelmed. We were heartbroken to have skilled professionals tell us that our child wasn't "normal." We really didn't know what would change after Griffin had an official diagnosis. We were filled with questions. How would he do in school? Would he ever make friends on his own? Would he ever date? Would we ever find extracurricular activities to engage him?
We needed time to work through the raw emotions. We had to wrestle with our own questions in our own private little world. We had been going through the whole evaluation process without really discussing it with anyone. We needed time to grieve, process, and grow a little thicker skin before we could share this news with anyone.
We received the diagnosis on September 11, we had our follow-up meeting at Easter Seals in October, and we finally told our families in November. It took a few more months after that before we started to discuss Griffin's diagnosis with friends and people at church.
Eventually, I learned to see Griffin's diagnosis not as something to be ashamed of but as a way to help people understand Griffin. Most people don't really understand Asperger's or Autism Spectrum Disorder, but they are much more willing to listen and work with Griffin's challenges when they know that he has an actual diagnosis.
Having a diagnosis helps other people see that Griffin is not just an out of control kid who needs better parenting. There's always room for improvement in our parenting (trust me). But Griffin is just created a little differently than other kids, even the other kids in our family. He processes the world differently. He functions differently and responds differently.
I choose to see Griffin as a unique creation, hand-crafted by God. In addition to being a bit challenging, Griffin is different in ways that are strengths (or will develop into strengths). When I look at that precious boy, there is no doubt in my mind that God will accomplish great things through Griffin that He could not accomplish through other people.
Jared and I often joke that we just have to harness Griffin's powers for good rather than evil.
It's actually true. We pray for God's wisdom in how we should parent our children. We want to help them develop into the people God created them to be. We want to seek God's approval of our parenting rather than the approval of the people around us. I'm still working on that one.
I actually can't believe that it's only been one year since the day we were given Griffin's diagnosis. I guess I've finally embraced who Griffin is. He is a child who shares many characteristics as other children on the Autism Spectrum. But there's no one else in this world like him.
Griffin has overcome a lot of challenges in a year. He has improved in his behavior, tried new things, improved his coping skills, learned a lot about relating to people, and adjusted to many life changes.
I've overcome a lot of challenges in a year. I've improved my parenting behavior, tried new things, improved my coping skills, learned about relating to people, and adjusted to many life changes.
See? We're all making progress.
I thought this date would always be a painful date. I can honestly say that just one year later, it doesn't even sting anymore. There will be harder days ahead. They have a way of popping up every now and then.
Today doesn't feel nearly as hard as I thought it would.
Today is a day to acknowledge and remember where we've been and everything we've overcome. I don't dread the next September 11th because I believe we'll make even more progress by then.
To continue my previous trend (Blogiversary, Housiversary, etc.), I'll say it: Happy Aspergiversary! :)