Mum's emotional battle with son's shock diagnosis
LITTLE Charlie is Eileen's angelic first-born, the boy she had dreamed of having for years.
The first year of his life, the US mum spent hours marvelling at his calm nature, his easy laugh and gorgeous smile.
"I used to think how it was to see him occupy himself for hours with the same toy," Eileen first wrote on Love What Matters.
"What a fine attention span!
"I appreciated his ability to block people out, appearing peaceful, like a protective bubble was insulating him from the big, new, scary world around him.
"These little moments were like little nuggets of gold.
"The first year I didn't worry about Charlie's development at all."
In fact, Eileen's niggling doubts about Charlie's development didn't start until his 18-month check-up.
As she filled out the doctor's questionnaire, she began to feel concerned that Charlie wasn't meeting his developmental milestones.
The little boy wasn't pointing, clapping, making eye contact or answering to his name. But when Eileen raised her concerns with the doctor, she was told not to worry.
"She had known Charlie for over a year - so she wasn't worried," Eileen said.
"She had given him his check-ups. She was an expert.
"So we went home, satisfied.
"Later, I learned how wrong she was."
Eileen's alarm bells seriously started ringing a few weeks later when Charlie became completely non-verbal.
Although he had never been talkative, Eileen had become used to hearing his adorable "thank you" when she gave him one of his favourite biscuits.
"But then he stopped speaking altogether and it seemed as if our connection was loosening," Eileen said.
"Something switched and while occasionally, before, he would sit with us, he now only seemed to want to be alone.
"He wouldn't even look at us anymore, and I was scared.
"I didn't recognise my child."
Eileen took Charlie to speech and occupational therapy immediately - but it didn't seem to make much of a difference.
"The word 'autism' kept coming up in conversations," Eileen said.
"His therapists weren't qualified to diagnose autism, but they knew.
"They knew my son was autistic.
"But I needed definite answers, so I started doing my own research.
"The more I learned about autism, the more convinced I was Charlie was indeed on the spectrum.
"The thoughts crashed down on me like a wave knocking me to the ground. It was overwhelming."
Even though Eileen suspected that Charlie was autistic, the diagnosis still came as a shock.
Although it felt like a relief to finally have answers, Eileen had no idea where to go from there.
"She handed us the official written diagnosis. That was it. We were on our own now," she said.
"My entire world came crashing down, the walls caved in, the floor dropped out from under me, and every other metaphor to that effect.
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Last week one of my followers told me “if you ain’t got haters, you ain’t doin’ sh*t!” Well guys, I must really be doin’ sh*t. 😂 How I wish people would understand that you can grieve your lost dreams while still loving your child with every fiber of your being. The attacks haven’t stopped, but I can’t stay off social media forever, so I’m back. ❤️
"I knew he was autistic and I was prepared to hear the diagnosis but it hit me hard.
"I still had so many unanswered questions.
"Questions no one had the answers to then - and questions I still don't have the answers to now, years later."
But over time Eileen made her peace with the fact that many of her questions would never be answered.
Charlie is now six - and is just as much the son Eileen dreamed of having.
"I don't have answers to my questions - will he ever be able to live an independent life? Will Charlie ever have a voice of his own?" she said.
"But but what I do know, and will always know, is that I love him with every fibre of my being.
"And I hope that's enough."
Eileen Lamb is the author of All Across The Spectrum and founder of The Autism Cafe.