Tagnan and Michelle Ribaudo are a mother and son in Columbia. Tagnan is currently in high school and also has high functioning autism. They spoke about some of the struggles Michelle faced when trying to get Tagnan diagnosed with autism as a child.
Missouri Health Talks gathers Missourians’ stories of access to healthcare in their own words. You can view more conversations at missourihealthtalks.org.
Michelle Ribaudo: It took me a while to figure out that there was just something a little different. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, and a lot of times, at first, when I would bring it up to the doctor or to friends, it would be a parenting issue. They would say, "Oh, you need to do this," or "you need to do that." "You need to be harsher."
Tagnan Ribaudo: Which. If I can?
Tagnan: If I may? It's kind of like what I was talking about earlier with how most, especially for autism because of the nature of it, especially kind of older thinking leads it to be, "Oh, you're just not raising them kids, right?"
Michelle: Yes, that's exactly right. And that's a lot of the advice I got, especially when you were really young. Because it was, you know, you were less than two. So, it was just your... I knew that other kids that we were around were not melting down. They weren't on the floor screaming and screaming and screaming.
And, you know, it was - you go through all these different emotions of "Why can I not get my kid to behave when we go out? Why are they worried about this sound or that sound?" And I remember going to the movie theater with you and you flipped out and just, you know, you're just so confused.
I mean, I was so confused about what it was, especially as I would try to get help and I wasn't getting many answers. It actually wasn't until your dad said, "I'm kind of wondering about autism?" And of course, my first reaction was, "Oh, I'm sure it's not that," and then Sarah was born - your younger sister. And it became like night and day.
I went back and I said, "No, this is different. This is not a parenting thing. There is, there's something." So, then it was so freeing to me to actually get a diagnosis and I know a lot of people kind of gave me a hard time in my family about getting a diagnosis. "Why do you want to label him?"
But to me, it was then I knew what I was dealing with and I knew, "okay, now we have a path. We know what therapies help. We know what therapies don't help."
Tagnan: That's one thing I've noticed, too, is you said, having people speak up is a major thing, which most definitely is because self-advocacy is something that is quite frankly, really hard in some cases, and I'm able to do it now, but in the past, I'd need people to help me and kind of speak up and I've done a lot better now where I can raise my hand and ask the teacher, but self-advocacy is hard.
So, sometimes, especially early on, you need people to advocate for you.
Michelle: You do.
Tagnan: Especially when you can't speak at all. It's generally hard to self-advocate when you can't form words. Laughter
Michelle: And I should have just really trusted my gut more because I knew. I knew there was something. So, I would definitely say, especially as you get older, trust your gut.