A word from Polly:
A is for Autism but also for anxiety, anger and acceptance – some of the emotions I’ve experienced over the last couple of years since we got the diagnosis of Autism for our son.
I’m at the acceptance stage for a while now Thank God, but I think the anger and anxiety are just something that has to be gone through.
(Not anger at my son obviously but anger that the world may set challenges for him that he’s not able for).
The acceptance for me is accepting that I have a child with special needs but I don’t put limitations on his abilities – how could I when he keeps surprising me all the time with how well he’s doing and more importantly how happy he is?
I suppose for us it might have been easier than for some parents as the diagnosis didn’t come as a very big shock – my boy was “in the system” since he was very small – speech delay, learning difficulty, global developmental delay (which is doctor speak for “there’s-something-wrong-with-your-kid-but-we-dunno-what-it-is” , I think)
We knew there was more to it than that so in a way, the diagnosis just opened a couple more doors for us – Home tuition etc. The shock for me was fear really of the unknown. I already knew a bit about Autism, or thought I did, as a family member has it and also one of my friend’s children at the time. Of course all our kids are different. We’re in a good place now, I think. Things are going well, we’ve all worked hard, my boy, my husband, our Home tutor and me.
My son was in a special needs preschool for 2 years and then in Montessori for 1 year.
We worried a lot about whether mainstream was the way to go but gave it a shot. The Montessori was great for him – enough structure for him to suit his tidy little mind but also enough freedom to do his own thing. He made a friend there and as is the way with children his friend knows he is “different” but assumes that “different” is normal if you know what I mean. This year he started in the local mainstream. Again nail biting and sleepless nights (me of course).
It's going very well we think and my clever boy bounces off to school in the morning. We’re happy with the school’s attitude. We’re just going term by term at the moment. Our big goal was never to “aspire” to mainstream; but rather to find the best fit for him – so far we think this is doing the job. Maybe in the future this will change – if so, we will hopefully make the right decisions then. At home we continue with a one-to-one program which we adapt all the time as he matures and progresses.
I’d like to thank Hammie for inviting me to write this – its been nice to think back over the years and see the strides our lovely son has made. Yes, thinking back can bring memories of bad times – the unending phone calls, searching for help, entitlements etc. I have sympathy for anyone who is going through this now.
If I was asked for advice from anyone who is just beginning this journey, I would say “trust in yourself”. You as a parent know your child better than anyone else, you WILL make the right decisions. Also, believe in your child. When your child is young it is hard to visualize them toilet trained, speaking, reading etc. We hear or read that our beautiful children won’t have friends, know love, have a sense of humour – all these things – how many times has this been proved wrong. My boy is funny, understands sarcasm, winds me up just for laughs and hugs me and tells me he loves me. One of the best days was when he said “no” for the first time. He had practically no speech and I wasn’t having a great day. It took me totally by surprise as it was a direct answer to a question – something he’d never done before. Of course he won’t stop saying it now!!! Anyway, I wish all of you happy days with your children, and Hammie, may your house be forever filled with tim tams!! xx