One parent’s story of a child’s autism diagnosis

A parent reflects on child’s autism diagnosis 10 years ago and touts care provided through the Norton Children’s Autism Center.

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Nearly a decade later, I still vividly remember almost every detail of the day I was told my youngest child was on the autism spectrum. Grayson was just shy of 3 years old when we learned of his diagnosis. We sat in shock as we were told by the developmental pediatrician that she had every hope he would one day be able to live independently and have a family of his own. My husband and I were devastated, and as we left the doctor’s office, we were filled with worry about what Grayson’s future held.

I recall feeling very alienated those first few years, as if our family was on a deserted island with no resources and no connection to other families. Receiving a diagnosis of autism for your child immediately makes you a relentless researcher of services, a cheerleader, a champion and an advocate for your child to receive every service and resource possible. I soon realized that there are many families who are impacted by autism, and how vitally important it is that we serve as a network that supports one another and shares our knowledge and experiences.

This is precisely why I am so thankful for our employee resource groups (ERGs) here at Norton Healthcare. Upon joining the Norton Healthcare family in April 2020, I quickly joined the ABLED (Awareness Benefiting Leadership and Employees About Disabilities) employee resource group. This ERG was formed to educate our system on the importance of improving access, inclusion and respect for people with disabilities. I am infinitely proud to work for an organization that recognizes the importance of caring for and working with people with disabilities. Being a part of the ABLED ERG has connected me with other families living with autism, and has greatly lessened those feelings of alienation.

The author of the article, Sara Clark Davis, is shown in a photo with her son who is a patient of Norton Children’s Autism Center

My family and I are also huge supporters of the Norton Children’s Autism Center, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. How fortunate we are to have this phenomenal facility that provides multidisciplinary, family-centered care for children diagnosed with autism! As both a parent of a patient AND a Norton employee, I have felt such gratitude and pride for this team and all they have done to support Grayson and our family. We are all particularly big fans of Echo, the newest member of the Heel, Dog, Heal facility dog team that works at the Autism Center.

Ten years later, I often wish I could go back in time and tell that young mother not to live in fear, and that Grayson’s future would be bright. We engaged in extensive therapy services shortly after his diagnosis, and now, at age 12, he is thriving academically and socially. Autism in no way defines Grayson, but is merely one of the many unique things about him — he is the light and heart of our family.

Sara Clark Davis is associate general counsel for Norton Healthcare.