Updated: Apr 5, 2021
My youngest son, Cameron, is clearly autistic. He has severe delays and uncontrollable outbursts. He is classic hand-flapping, tip toe walking, obsessed with odd things, autistic. In some ways, its easier to deal with his symptoms because he has a clear and undeniable diagnosis.
My oldest son, Christian, is completely different. A bit socially awkward, uncontrollable self talk, lack of focus and low executive functioning skills but in every other way, he is "normal". Chris has grown up watching Cameron being called autistic. Chris associates autism with Cameron's severities. When the doctor said "I believe you have autism." Chris said "Oh, hell no I don't!!" (Well, not in those exact words because he's only 12 and he knows better...but that's what he wanted to say). Chris would NOT accept the label and was VERY distraught. In the end, in order for him to accept help and services, I had to say that it was for his ADHD (a label he is okay with).
But we can't keep up this charade forever (can we??)
According to experts at TACA "The bad part of denial is that all it does really, is delay the inevitable and potentially even waste precious time for getting help, support and services at an extremely crucial age." So if not receiving a label is stopping you from getting help...then that is a problem. For us, I have accepted the label and realize he needs services, which he receives. My belief is that I will slowly allow him to realize what autism truly is. He's learning, by going to events and workshops that I go to, that autism is a range of things and it doesn't always look like Cameron's-autism. Allowing him to grow through his denial will help him understand what autism means for his journey.
I think there is a double whammy for a late diagnosed sibling on the spectrum. Every journey is different. And for those that need time to process this label, thats ok. As long as during that time you are still taking steps to help yourself.
-Dr. Celeste Chamberlain