‘They whispered to each other. ‘How can that be?’ My heart sank. ‘He doesn’t seem THAT different. It must be a mistake.’: Mom surprised by son’s autism diagnosis, ‘We just chalked it up to ‘every kid is different and learns at their own pace.’

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“Having children was always something I had dreamed about ever since I can remember. I always knew I wanted to be a mom. I knew I was born to be a mom! I dreamt of every single detail about being a mom and I looked forward to when that day would come for me.

After meeting the love of my life and marrying him in the Oakland LDS temple, I was ecstatic to start a family. I got pregnant just 9 months after we were married. Everything went well with my pregnancy and delivery and before we even blinked, our perfect 8 pounds 2 ounces little baby boy had joined our family. Landon was a fussy baby for a few months after being born and had to be put on a special kind of formula for some tummy issues. After we got that figured out, he was a DREAM baby! He didn’t really laugh or cry very much, he was just super chill and we thought we had it MADE.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham
Courtesy of Brook Stringham

In fact, he was such an easy baby that we started talking about trying for another baby. Before we had even fully made the decision, we were pregnant again. A little sooner than we were hoping for, but we were excited for baby number 2! While I was pregnant, Landon continued to be the easy baby he was. He didn’t seem to notice pain very much and so I would hardly even know when he was sick or teething. Little did I know that these were just some precursors to some symptoms I would later start to notice.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

Baby number 2 came an entire month early at 36 weeks. Mason joined our family and now we were up to our ears with boys, diapers, and bottles. Life was good snuggling my newborn on the couch while Landon would play in the living room. It was exhausting and I wasn’t sleeping much but this is what I had always dreamt about. Being a mom and just working my butt off for these kiddos.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

Life went on and we had little playgroup with three other boys Landon’s age. It was so fun to have a little group of moms for me to hang out with and boys for Landon to hang around. I started to notice the other little boys’ interactions with their moms. They would look when their names were called, point to objects, make mooing noises at the cows next to the park (we lived in a small little town), and bring things to their moms just to show them. As I started to notice more and more little things like this, I began to get worried. I didn’t think anything was different about Landon at first, I just thought I was not a good enough mom. I thought I wasn’t teaching him these little things well enough.

I started in a downward spiral of blame and shame. The harder I started to work on these little things with Landon, the more defeated and incompetent I would feel. I started to blame myself for Landon’s speech delays that were becoming more and more apparent.

My husband was able to calm me down and assure me I was doing a great job at being a mom and that I was not doing anything wrong. He assured me that Landon was fine and that he would catch up. We just chalked it up to ‘every kid is different and learns at their own pace.’ I truly do believe that statement, but in Landon’s case, it wouldn’t be that simple.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

Time went on and I was able to find comfort in that phrase for a while. But there a feeling deep down in me, that would not let my heart completely rest. I knew something was different but didn’t have any concrete evidence to support my feelings. I continued to open up to my husband, friends, and family about this fear. They all continued to assure me that Landon was just a quiet, chill boy and that I should consider myself lucky to have such an easy-going kid.

By the time Landon was a few months away from his second birthday, my husband began to share my feelings and concerns about Landon and his development. Especially as his little brother, Mason, became more and more interactive with us, and we realized that Landon was still not very interactive towards us and was almost, indifferent.

We are very religious people so we prayed together as a couple for guidance on what to do with our boy and how to help him or if we even needed to be concerned at all. After all, this was our first child and we didn’t know any different. My husband got a strong feeling to get in touch with a friend that had similar concerns with one of his children. My husband learned about the State Services that would come and evaluate your child. We were nervous to make the appointment but knew that it was something we had to do. We saw two outcomes, either they tell us the hard news that our child has some delays and needs some extra help or they tell us we have no need to worry. Either way, we would be doing something to help our child and put our hearts at ease.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

The day of the evaluation was approaching and we had convinced ourselves that they were just going to tell us that our son had minor speech delays and we would get him a speech therapist, and then that’s it. Easy-peasy, we would have helped our son and move on with life as we knew it.

We went into the evaluation and within minutes of us entering the room, the evaluators began to ask a million questions and whisper to each other. My heart sank to my stomach and I knew that they were about to tell me something I was not expecting at all.

‘Your son is showing many signs of Autism. We cannot give you an official diagnosis but you should get on the waitlists for a diagnosis and we will send someone to your house in a few weeks to discuss where you go from here.’ All that was going through my mind was, ‘Autism? How can that be? He doesn’t seem THAT different from the other kids. Does he? They must have made a mistake.’

The first question I could blurt out in my state of shock was, ‘Will he be able to get married, have kids, and have a normal life?’ (You know, all the things you dream up for your child’s future before they are even born)

All of the people in the room looked at me with teary eyes and said, ‘Landon is very young. We have learned that, with Autism, it is all about early intervention. If you get him the help that he needs, you are giving him his best chances for his future that you possibly can.’

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

The next few days were a blur. We were still in shock. We started looking up places to get him an official diagnosis and there were waiting lists EVERYWHERE. The shortest waiting list we found was a year long. We couldn’t wrap our minds around waiting that long to get a more concrete diagnosis and certain recommendations to best help him. My mom found a place in the Bay Area that would diagnosis him within the next week if we were willing to pay out-of-pocket. The diagnosis was CRUCIAL in getting Landon all of the help possible. It was also a confirmation to us that this was truly a life-changing diagnosis for our family. At the diagnosis, they recommended that Landon receive 20 hours of ABA therapy a week as well as occupational therapy and speech therapy. I had already been researching ABA companies in the area and not ONE company would come out to the little town that we lived in, to provide those services. Within minutes of this recommendation, my husband and I decided we needed to move into the city to get our son the services he needed and deserved. We contacted our realtor and our house was on the market as soon as possible.

We knew there were very long waitlists for all of the ABA companies as well. So, we started getting on every waiting list possible and knew that we likely wouldn’t start receiving services for a while. I knew I wanted the ABA company we went with to use the Early Start Denver Model and found a company that used it. It just so happened that they had a spot opening up in a couple of months. Our house sold in just two days on the market and everything worked out in a way that does not make sense. The only way I can describe it is: God was in EVERY detail.

We have since learned a lot more about Autism and it has truly proven to be a blessing to our family. We have seen miracles in this process! It is the hardest journey we have ever been on, and every day is still filled with more questions. We have no idea what the future holds for our son but we do know that we will work as hard as we can to give him every opportunity possible.

Courtesy of Brook Stringham

We are still new to this Autism parenting life but here are some things we have learned so far:

There is no such thing as ‘normal.’ Our son just learns and experiences the world in a different way. It is a blessing to have people like Landon in the world. No matter who you are, or what you are going through, you can do it! AND you can be awesome at it! Parents of children with special needs need a lot of self-care, understanding, and love. Reach out to the ones you know, or if you are a parent of a child with special needs, know that you are not alone.

Our boys are the biggest blessings in our life. We wouldn’t have them any other way. Autism or ‘neurotypical,’ everyone is special and is capable of amazing things in life! Our family is now on a mission to raise awareness of Autism and to show that you can still have a wonderful life with this diagnosis. Even though Autism comes with many quirks and needs, it also comes with a fresh perspective of life and helps us appreciate the little things.”

Courtesy of Brook Stringham
Makendie Williams Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Brook Stringham from Henderson, NV. You can follow their journey on Instagram. You can also follow their blog. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more touching stories like this: 

‘They are the hardest. I don’t expect you to understand. I’ll never hear my boys say, ‘I love you.’: Mom of 2 sons with autism says they are ‘so much more’ than their diagnosis

‘You made the nice list!’ The words that made everything OK again. He gave him a certificate with his name on it.’: Non-verbal boy with Autism surprised by sensory friendly Santa at home

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