Papa’s Diagnosis

Reindorf Sipi Ankumah

Reindorf Sipi Ankumah

Dad to 3 amazing kids

Hello Everyone,

Today, I want to take you on a trip down memory lane to when Papa, our little bundle of joy, was diagnosed with Autism. Papa was growing just like any other child, ticking all the developmental boxes. Not that we were sticklers for milestones, but as parents, we could tell that everything was on track. He started crawling at 6 months, was standing at 7 months, and by 8 or 9 months, he was taking his first steps. 

He was an adventurous climber at 9 months old. Such was his climbing prowess that I had to remove all coffee tables and any objects that his tiny, ecstatic limbs yearned to ascend. The joy I felt when Papa would run towards me every time I came back from work, arms outstretched, waiting to be picked up and spun around, was inexplicable. It was our ritual, and he loved it just as much as his elder sister did.

One evening, after spinning him around, he exclaimed in his tiny voice, “dotit again!”. I was stunned! He had spoken a full phrase on his first try, while other children start with ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. I couldn’t put into words the joy that filled my heart at that moment.

However, as time passed, we started noticing some changes. Papa no longer responded when we called him. I thought he was just hyper-focused. He was particularly fond of Peppa Pig and could recite most of the scenes while watching. But, as the lockdown in March 2020 went on, we began to notice a decline in Papa’s social interactions and his developmental skills. He stopped turning when called and wouldn’t look you in the face. When he wanted something, he would just hold your hand or bring you the object if he could. He also started having difficulties sleeping, often waking up in the night and giggling to himself. My wife and I joked that he was laughing with his fairy friends.

By May 2021, we took a trip back home to Ghana. It was during this trip that we decided to have him evaluated. It wasn’t easy to find a pediatric neurologist to evaluate him, but we were referred to Mission’s Hospital in Accra. On the day of the appointment, my mind was a whirlwind of emotions. I wanted him to get the right diagnosis so we could provide the necessary support, but I also dreaded the prospect of him being diagnosed with Autism.

Without sounding prejudiced, growing up in an African society where children with developmental issues are not easily accepted was tough. People would rather attribute any “misfortune” to spiritual attacks or punishment from the Supreme Being. So, I knew that with this diagnosis, acceptance for Papa would be difficult within our society. The journey to the doctor’s office was long, but I hardly noticed it, my mind was flooded with all the possible outcomes.

After filling out some forms about his behaviors and skills, and after the doctor evaluated him, we received the news. Papa was indeed on the spectrum – mild to moderate Autism, as the doctor put it, but would still require a lot of early intervention.

At that moment, I felt numb. I wasn’t angry, nor was I particularly sad. I just didn’t know how to feel. I could tell my wife was devastated too, but in her usual resilient spirit, she turned to me and said, “Why are you worried? Papa is a special person with a special mission to touch nations.” Her words lifted our spirits. 

In our next conversation, I’ll delve into the difficulties we encountered in processing the information about the diagnosis and finding early interventions for Papa. As a parent, you might have had similar experiences dealing with unexpected news. Feel free to share your experience in the comment section or send me a message at reindorfankumah@gmail.com. You may also want to know ahead of time how I handled a particularly situation or found a particular service for Papa, if so feel free to send me a note and I’ll respond as well! 

Cheers 

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