Wednesday, April 27, 2011

He has autism

My son has autism. There I've said it. Today is his birthday and he's four. He only started talking last October - when he was three and a half. Suddenly it went from a handful of words to two words. It was usually a colour added. The 'black car'; the 'purple block; the 'brown book'. Now we have almost sentences. We're still waiting for the pronouns to be added.

He was diagnosed with high functioning autism just after he turned two. So he's 'just' on the spectrum was how it was explained to me. I was also told that a diagnosis is a good thing, because he will have access to early intervention.

When all this happened I had just had my daughter. My mother was convinced that I had post-natal depression. I don't know how many times I had to tell her I didn't. I was dealing with the fact my son has autism. It wasn't something that was going to go away.

So this brings me to now. It is almost two years since his diagnosis. Until now I've been walking around telling everyone he has a speech delay. Thus far this has sufficed. But now I can see the quizzical looks from people. The crinkling of the brow. The white elephant in the room when friends are there. They've noticed that something isn't quite right.

A few weeks ago I decided to start telling people. Last week I was at the library. We bumped into another mum whose son is in the same kinder group as my son. I blurted it out. And regretted it a heartbeat later. I had stupidly chosen the wrong person to tell this to. Of course she was completely unaware of the significance of me actually saying to her that he has autism. She probably thought I told this to everyone. I certainly said it with that impression. But oh how I regretted it. I went home with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that stayed with me for days. You're probably asking why was she the wrong person to say this to? It was her response. 'How is that working for you?' Seems an innocuous enough question. But it was the way it was posed. There wasn't the light in her eyes of, oh I get it, I get you, I know where you're coming from. She didn't have any idea what it was. I'm not laying any blame here, but I know that in my desperate bid to just say it out loud to someone, I had been too hasty.

Despite last week's declaration, today I told someone else. This person didn't say anything. But it was different. She got it. I could see it in her eyes. She had asked my son a question and he had chosen not to respond. The timing was right to intervene so I just said it. He has autism. No more was needed to be said.

It sounds as though I have told only two people in this world that my son has autism. That's not the case. Immediate family members know. Not all family. Just some. Some friends know. Some friends have guessed and we haven't said either way. There are many many people that I don't really want to tell. I'm not sure why, or at least not sure if I can articulate it properly. I think deep down it's because I don't want my son to be treated any differently.

So is my son different? He is and he isn't. Anyone reading this who has had some experience with autism will understand what I mean by that. It's such a hard thing to describe. It depends entirely whether or not he has made a connection with people. If a connection has been made then it's all magnificent. Often he does make a connection and this is why with the few people I have told their first response is often one of surprise.

I need to finish this post by getting a few things off my chest. The last two years I have internalised much. I haven't made any response to well intended comments, nor have I responded to hurtful statements, nor just plain ignorance. But what's a blog for if I can't now answer some of these things here?

So, here are my answers. No, it will not go away. Yes, he has got it. No, medicine will not help. Yes, he has multivitamins and god forbid let's not forget the daily dose of Omega 3. I know you mean well when you say that you can't tell off chidren like this, but my son is the same as any other child and must be disciplined if need be. How is it working for me? Very well. He loves kinder, he loves his day care, he loves his little sister and he makes friends just like any other child. You just need to give him a chance. Screaming no to him will not do any good. Why not try and lead him in a different direction? Yes, I know he has special needs but what do you want me to do? Lock him up in another room and throw away the key? Yes he knows his alphabet. He's known it since he was two. No he's not dumb. Yes he comprehends you. Yes he can have lollies or cake, I don't stop him from having sugar. Yes he eats fruit. If he didn't eat fruit that day maybe he didn't feel like it. I'm sorry he doesn't answer your questions but that's just the way he is. Yes I agree with you that his drawings are superb. Yes I know that all he talks about is cars. However, if it wasn't for Lightning McQueen would he have ever started talking? If you know he likes cars than talk to him about that. I promise you he'll respond. No don't give him biscuits and lollies all day because then he will behave badly. He's not naughty, he just doesn't know how to socialise properly. We're working on that.

And that's just it. We're working on it. Early Intervention is my life saver. Although they will probably never read this, and I have told them in the past, let me say again, thank you to our therapists. Without their help we would not be where we are today.

Oh. And yes, he will be going to school. So Happy Birthday my angel. I love you very much and I am the luckiest person in the world.

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