Coming Out: Speaking Openly About Autism Diagnosis
As you may remember, a few months back I wrote this blog post about our family’s choices in keeping our son’s autism diagnosis close to the vest. Over the last month or so, my husband had been doing some reading and we had been discussing the possibility of becoming more open about S’s diagnosis. He seemed more on board than me, as I was still worried about how people would perceive S and if he would be treated differently. As usual, life got busy and the subject was dropped for a while.
Then, last week, I accidentally outed my son’s autism on Facebook.
I am a member of a few private Facebook groups for families with autistic children; and, looking to broaden my network, I joined another group, that was apparently, very public. And so, my posting was blasted into everyone’s newsfeed without my knowledge. Joy.
A family friend saw the posting (which had included a little bit about how we had not yet told any family) and she decided to call me right away to let me know what I was posting was public. She handled it so nicely and assured me hat she wouldn’t say anything to anyone; that our secret was safe with her.
After hanging up with her, something just didn’t sit right about the conversation. I felt just awful. Not so much that I had outed my son on a very public forum, but that our family friend had used the word ‘secret’ in reference to my son. Don’t get me wrong, our family friend handled things just wonderfully and was very respectful of our family’s wishes. It was just that the word “secret”, to me, conotes shame and something that needs to be hidden or kept away. That is certainly not how I feel about S.
And so, Daddy J and I re-opened the conversation about S’s autism and whether or not this information should be kept so close. In the end, we decided that since S is just perfect the way he is… and his autism is a pretty big part of him… and that is nothing to be ashamed of, that there was no reason to keep this information from becoming public. Daddy J and I felt that keeping his autism hidden from family and friends might later make S feel that it is something to be ashamed of, and we would never want him to feel that way. And perhaps, if more people were aware of autism, it would be more openly accepted. After-all, people generally only fear the unknown.
Making the decision to no longer keep autism as our ‘family secret’ has been so liberating. We decided to not make a big public announcement or anything, because really, it just isn’t that big of a deal. In fact, since deciding to become open, I have only told one person… S’s hairdresser. After-all, autism is just a part of who S is. He has blonde hair, blue eyes, autism and an infectious smile.
It’s funny, really, how far we have come in our autism journey. This time one year ago, I was hoping and praying that our son would not be diagnosed with autism. And, when he was, it was like our world came to a crashing halt. I would’ve done practically anything to remove autism from our lives. Autism seemed like the most repulsive thing in the world and I did not want my son to have it. And now, I can honestly say I don’t know if I would give autism back if I could. Sure, we have our fair share of struggles, and will have many more. But, our son is a really awesome little dude, and I wouldn’t want to change anything about him… not his blue eyes, his blonde hair or his autism.
He is perfect, just the way he is… and there is no reason to keep that a secret.