I’ve been grappling with something.

Does my four year-old son really have autism?

It’s not an easy question to answer. The umbrella seems rather wide, and my son has just squeaked his way under it. He can’t always find protection from the rain; part of him is perpetually sticking out.

There are moments when his imaginative play is creative and his language so articulate, I find myself scoffing at the diagnosis.

Then he licks the restaurant table.

There are moments when he shows intense empathy for his younger brother, and a true desire to play with him.

Then he knocks him off the couch.

There are moments when he gets so excited about a play date with a friend, he’s literally jumping up and down.

Then he spends the time playing by himself.

Just a few days ago, he was snuggled next to me on the couch watching TV. Then, suddenly, he was jumping on me, clawing and biting.

What is this?

Is it autism? Is it sensory-processing disorder? Is he simply an active aggressive child?

Does it matter?

Yes….and no.

Yes, it matters in that the label of ASD has provided us with therapies to help our son that insurance wouldn’t otherwise cover, as well as the opportunity to participate in programs that require a label to attend.ย It’s provided our son with an IEP that has been instrumental in bridging the communication between home and school. It’s allowed him to participate in a special needs preschool with a teacher that truly changed his life for the better. It’s providing us with a solid plan for when he starts Junior Kindergarten this fall, to ensure he has the best start possible.

Yet, I still find myself struggling with the label, wondering if it truly depicts my son. In my heart, I know it doesn’t. This label of autism felt all-consuming when it was slapped on him last year, but now, it feels like such a small part of who he really is.

Impulsive, creative, active, intense, aggressive, sensitive, funny, sensory-seeking, compassionate, competitive, energetic, autistic — these are just some of the words that describe my son.

For now though, I’ll take the label.

Do you ever struggle with your child’s diagnosis?


Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo! Want to join in on next month’s Sensory Blog Hop? Click here!

Published by Miranda Keskes

I am a freelance writer, editor, and tutor with fifteen years of high school teaching experience. Helping young adults craft their unique writer's voice is one of my passions. As the mother of a child with autism, I also feel compelled to share our story, connect with fellow parents, and raise awareness for a diagnosis that is still quite misunderstood. Learn more at my business site,, and my personal blog,

24 thoughts on “ASD, SPD, WTF?

  1. Yes! I struggle! Our diagnosis is SPD alone, but sometimes I wonder if there’s more…or less. At the end of the day (each and every single day), he is who he is and it means everything and nothing. In other words, it’s confusing. (p.s. SPD does very little in regards to insurance coverage. Boo.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. That liminal space between “normal” and “[label]” is a complex place to find oneself as a family. As you have, I’ve tried to navigate the school district and services using the labels while stressing that autism does not define my son…It’s truly a fine line. And I have at time felt things were actually HARDER for my son, because he IS so aware and so eager to connect, and notices when people are cruel….whereas if he were more “in his own world” – might certain things hurt less? Ah, parenting…


      1. Oh, I LOVE this! Cleverer than mine. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t participate in the Blog Hop that month, so thanks for sharing. Your work is always fun and fascinating to read.


    1. I absolutely worry about this for my son too – that he WANTS to play with others, but then struggles with how to do it. I am sure as he gets older, this will only get more complicated. Sigh. This is tough.
      Thanks as always for reading and commenting! ๐Ÿ™‚


  3. Our son has only been labeled as “SPD” but we are in the process of trying to find out if there is more to it (like “OCD”). The label has helped with services but knowing what his diagnosis is helps me to research how to help him because our resources are limited at best. It however, does not define who my son is. He is much like your son and is “Impulsive, creative, active, intense, aggressive, sensitive, funny, sensory-seeking, compassionate, competitive, energetic”


    1. It’s quite stressful trying to find a label that fits, isn’t it? It’s like you finally get into the swing of things and think you ‘understand’ this diagnosis, then your child, in natural human spirit, throws a curve ball at you.
      Thanks for reading. I’m going to check out your post now. I love it. ๐Ÿ™‚


  4. Yes! I have felt much the same way about my son’s autism diagnosis. Mine is also quite verbal and shows imagination, creativity, and empathy. I, like you, have chosen to view the label as a ticket to services rather than something that defines my child. And I, like you, am grateful for the people who have come into our lives along the way as a result. And so I’ve come to terms with the label, even though it is an imperfect fit.


    1. What a good feeling to be okay with the ambiguity of the situation. It’s been hard for me, but accepting there’s no ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to any of this has helped. Happy for you and your family. ๐Ÿ™‚


  5. Love the title! I agree, a diagnosis has pros and cons, especially when some days we are not sure they need one, or perhaps qualify for one. I used to think they’d take my sons diagnosis away, sure that it was all a misunderstanding, but 10 years later it still holds strong. And you’re right, it’s just one part of a fabulous kid. Great read!


    1. It’s funny you mention that because I’ve also wondered if the diagnosis might ‘go away.’ The IEP may perhaps, and maybe even the labels, but my son will still be who is, acronyms or not.

      Thanks for reading! ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. I just wanted to tell you, sorry if it sounds presumptuous, all the things you listed that he does sound like could be done with a normal kid, too.. even the licking table part ๐Ÿ˜€ Biting is known to be a sign of affection. He seems like a happy kid so the label is good, as you’ve said, but not important otherwise. I still don’t have a definite diagnosis for my kid and she’s non verbal but I like that she’s so full of energy. Yes, it gets tiring but I love it. I try not to think about her diagnosis, but yes.. it is hard not to. We’re people.. we got used to giving a name to everything. Makes us feels safer I guess…


    1. Not presumptuous at all! I agree with you in many ways. I do think we (i.e. society) feel safer with labels, for better or for worse. Thank you for taking the time to post and share about your daughter. Energetic kiddos is totally my style too. ๐Ÿ™‚


    2. Was just going to put this! These days children are too easily labelled (please don’t think I am blaming anyone here because I am not!) without considering that achild may just be marching to their own drum… It must be hard for you, because as you say you need s label to access the appropriate provision, but I get parents in school who are convinced that their child has a range of conditions when they are working their way through the developmental process at a different rate to their peers, but still getting there… It’s s tough call. Hope you get help with your concerns x


      1. Thank you so much for sharing! I feel very fortunate the school district for my son is so helpful, yet don’t use his label as a crutch. I know there are many who experience the opposite.


  7. I am struggling a year later with a dx that in my heart and head does not fit (ASD) and I see over and over how people that know about the dx treat him different. They act as he is not aware – that they can dismiss him or that he won’t notice when their tone of voice is harsh – but he does. He is very sensitive and it hurts him. This label has given us nothing but has caused so much terrible perception. It obscures his real struggles which are visual processing but how does one unring the ASD bell? It seems hopeless – and from what I hear if you go to a true believer asd expert chances are 95% you are walking out with an ASD label because all symptoms now go under the net


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