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  • Writer's pictureSarah Swindell

Fade to Black

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

Dawson, 16 years after his autism diagnosis.

HELLO! Welcome to my very first post! I'm excited just typing those words!

I am going to start with a piece I wrote many years ago about the day my son was diagnosed with autism. This was a very significant time in my family's life as you can probably guess, but for me, it was the start of a slow decline of my own personal life as well, so I thought this would be a great place to begin.

My once perfect marriage started to suffer from this day forward. I am sure I neglected the fact my husband was suffering in his own private way, and slowly felt myself shutting him out. I was completely overwhelmed with the daunting task of managing this new diagnosis, as well as being there for my three older daughters. Looking back, I feel I failed at all three of these things for a while, and became a completely different person in the mean time.

Here is a peek of the last few paragraphs about my recollection of one the hardest days of my life. It represents the end of a pretty amazing life I was living, and the beginning of a new life that slowly started to unravel for many years that followed.

I choked back tears the entire time as I silently cheered Dawson on to do the very best he could. I willed him to try and fool her into thinking nothing was seriously wrong and we didn’t need her stupid opinion after all.

When the testing was over, the doctor sat back down at her desk with her arms folded and started to speak. That is when all faded to black. My ears started ringing and I felt my throat swell from trying to push down the sobs that started to form deep within my soul.

I remember thinking this is what an out of body experience really feels like. I wanted to grab Dawson off the floor and run out of that office as fast as my legs would carry me, but Greg had beat me to it.

He scooped him off the floor without saying a single word, and quickly walked out the door. I sat there with my ears still ringing and silent tears streaming down my face, as she said the words I never wanted to hear, but somehow already knew.

"Your son has autism, and I believe it is a severe form.” I heard words like, “There are places for kids like him when he gets older” followed by “He will most likely never speak, attend a regular school, and will probably need life long care.” How in the hell did this lady know all of this about our 18-month-old son, after only one hour with him?

To hear the words said out loud that he had autism, and then say how severe it was, was a blow I was not prepared to receive. She handed me a piece of paper with all the therapies he needed, and a bundle of pamphlets for newly diagnosed families.

Was this really happening? It felt like my son had just died but there would be no funeral or memorial service to mourn the life we dreamed he would have, that was now gone forever. Only a piece of paper with words I had never heard before and pamphlets no family ever wants to receive, was all that was given to us.

The doctor gently patted my back, told me she was sorry, wished me luck and to call her with any questions. Seriously? Any questions?

Still in a daze, I slowly walked through the parking lot to the car where Greg and Dawson had been waiting for me. A movie of Dawson’s short, precious life seemed to be playing on fast forward in my head as I approached them. I climbed into our SUV, and the sobs I had stuffed down for over an hour, came pouring out like a dark, heavy rain that I thought would never end."

Sarah Swindell's memoir, Rounding Home, is now available here!

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