We have entered a new chapter in our lives with a NEW DIAGNOSIS over Keller's life.
A couple weeks ago we had a follow-up appointment with Keller's pediatric neurologist who diagnosed him on the autism spectrum in 2014. We initiated the meeting because we felt that it was time to talk with her about Keller's diagnosis as it had become clear to us and his other therapists and community that he had truly lost all his symptoms.
This appointment put me in a very tender and emotional state. I was sure of what I had seen in Keller's life and deeply certain of the incredible and miraculous strides he had made since his diagnosis, but I also trust this expert and her opinion and wisdom into Keller's life. Without her concrete diagnosis on Keller's life when he was 22 months we would NEVER be where we are today. She sat at that first appointment and even before she had written up a full assessment she knew unequivocally that he was on the autism spectrum. She left no doubt or questioning in our minds when we left her office and her certainty helped launch us into our new mission with Keller.
However, as much as we are eternally grateful for this doctor, being on the doorstep of meeting with her again made me feel like my own fate was in her hands once more. I felt vulnerable and extremely emotional the entire day leading up to the appointment. There are times still in our journey with Keller when a wave of emotion, grief, or fear will wash over me about his life and I feel again like I might drown without the anchor of God to hold me in the storm. We are blessed to have an incredibly supportive community around us and so some of our closest friends prayed with me during that day as we anticipated the appointment.
At last the appointment arrived. Casey was confident, Keller was clueless and happy (as usual) and I was an emotional wreck. Quickly in our conversation Dr. Schleigal asked why we were there and we told her about our desire for her to assess Keller's progress. She asked Keller some questions and we continued to chat and then she said "Well he is obviously NOT on the spectrum!"
This sentence that just rolled of her tongue has absolutely has changed our lives. Our son Keller does NOT have autism anymore. Keller is NOT on the autism spectrum. The new diagnosis is that we have NO DIAGNOSIS. We just have a happy and full-of-life little boy.
This was what we had always hoped for but also were scared to dream of. A couple years ago Casey and Kieren started praying every night that Keller would lose his diagnosis, but it was too scary and vulnerable for me to pray. For me, God was still GOOD even if Keller never lost his diagnosis. I didn't NEED that miracle, I just needed God in the midst of whatever our story was supposed to be. But over the last year it has become glaringly clear that Keller does not have autism, and to let myself even begin to accept that has been huge. But this appointment, this day with our doctor, was the confirmation of it all. And it has been so good.
Honestly, it still feels unreal when I think that I DON'T have a son with special needs now. It became a part of our identity as a family, not just for Keller, so it's strange that the term no longer applies. We now look ahead to our future and dream with new lenses for Keller. So much is possible, so much is tangible, so much is even beginning to happen now. We have a new diagnosis of a son WITHOUT autism and our lives ahead look rich with promise and potential.