An Autism Diagnosis- It’s Not a Label, It’s Life’s Ultimate Cheat Code…
By Jeremy Rochford
…Growing up, there weren't too many things that mattered more in my life than playing Nintendo. One game in particular, Contra, was my absolute favorite. Beyond its spectacular gameplay and the purely awesome graphics, there was something genuinely unique about Contra.
It had a cheat code.
That’s right, a cheat code.
And not just any cheat code, but the most epic of cheat codes!
If you entered the sequence "up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, start," you would begin the game with 30 lives. Think about that, when most Nintendo games started you off with a measly three lives, finding a way to 10x your existence was pure magic.
Especially in a game where you’re being shot at.
But, alas, those were simpler times.
And as my youth gave way to my 20s, which gave way to my 30s, which now has given way to my 40s, I'm not gonna lie; there are times I wished for a cheat code to become a better parent, spouse, and overall adult.
Unfortunately, it seems one doesn’t exist.
Yeah, sure, there’s the lottery. But let’s be honest, if you’re bad with money, having more of something you’re bad at isn’t going to make you better. So, playing “grandma’s lucky numbers” isn’t much of a “cheat code” strategy.
But then, enter my children.
First came my son's Autism diagnosis, which led my wife and me to start exploring a world that we knew very, VERY little about. Then, while trying to understand better our discovery and how to best parent our son within it, we started to see a lot of similarities between our daughter's behavior and what's being quantified as ASD-1 or "Asperger's."
Needless to say, we were even more intrigued.
So, we decided it might be helpful to get her tested as well, and within a few minutes of her appointment, the discovery was made that both our children are on the spectrum.
YAY! Bonus level!
Now, if I'm being honest, I was a little taken aback at first, like most people who would find themselves in this situation. It was a smidge overwhelming to realize that 98% of the parenting resources I've ever read, watched, and consumed, were now irrelevant because you cannot parent a neurodiverse child the same way you'd parent a neurotypical one.
With that reality now evident, my feeling(s) of overwhelm started to fade because having their diagnosis FINALLY gave my wife and me a clear path on how to parent our children in a way that best suits their needs, emotions, and strengths. Interestingly enough, though- the more I learned about my children, the more I started to learn about myself. And the more I recognized the traits of Autism in my children, the more I began to recognize those same traits in me.
Which lead to ask the question; Am I Autistic?
The answer is yes.
I am Autistic.
And since my diagnosis, my life has been better in every aspect.
My marriage is better.
My job is better.
My parenting is better.
EVERYTHING IS BETTER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
BECAUSE I FINALLY HAVE LIFE’S ULTIMATE CHEAT CODE!!!!
Or in other words, I finally have a basis for why I am the way I am and act the way I do.
For years, I questioned certain things in my life that never seemed to make sense.
Why do I have such a deep fascination with NASCAR and their die-cast cars, even though I was born in Pittsburgh, Pa, to a family with no automotive aptitude?
Why can’t I sit still for even a second without tapping my fingers, hands, or feet?
Why do I get headaches after hours of being "on' in front of people with the need to "walk it off" afterward to decompress?
Being able to see these "quirks" through the lens of special interests, stimming, and self-regulation allows me to make sense of so many things in my life. And it makes me feel normal.
Maybe not typical, but normal.
More importantly, though- it helps me know that…
I’m not alone.
I’m not weird.
I’m not broken.
I belong to a tribe of like-minded people.
I have a “standard operating procedure.”
And I finally have the cheat code to life that I wished for all this time.
Because now, I understand how to put myself in places where I can get the best out of me and how to avoid situations where the outcome won’t be in my favor.
More importantly-I know why.
I literally cannot express in words the reduction of anxiety and stress in my life that has come since I discovered my place on the spectrum.
I genuinely view my diagnosis as life's ultimate cheat code, and I can't wait to see what happens from here.
I've never felt more complete, at peace, or excited.
I don’t know where you’re at when you’re reading this.
I’m not sure how, or even if, you’re struggling with what Autism is and how it might affect you. Maybe it’s a kid, maybe it’s a parent, maybe it’s a spouse, maybe it’s a loved one, maybe it’s you.
Regardless of how, if you’re concerned, I can assure you of this.
My diagnosis doesn’t define me or make me deficient in any way.
It simply gives me a baseline of understanding that I’m a MAC in a PC world.
And the last time I checked, MACs were responsible for a lot of amazing things.
We’re no different.
Except for maybe in a few ways…the greatest of which…
Is that we’ve got the Cheat Code.
If you'd like to connect further about what you've just read or to learn more about what we do at Autistic Family Coaching, you can reach me at Jeremy@AutisticFamilyCoaching.com.