So much of what you see out there when you first get a diagnosis for your child is all about the "core deficits of autism." The "triad of impairments." The fact that it's a life long condition, and your child will be affected by their autism in every aspect of their lives..... and to be honest its all pretty overwhelming. I am lucky as I have worked with kids on the spectrum for many years so had a head start but for my husband all this must have seemed pretty bleak stuff.
But what they don't tell you at that meeting is the wonder of your kids uniqueness. I think its more complex than simply the things he cant do. Yes my sons brain works differently, yes he has autism and yes things are bloody hard (I'm not gonna sit here and pretend its a walk in the park) But its honestly not all doom and gloom. I quickly learned that I needed to take a step into my sons world to really understand him and appreciate his uniqueness.
All my kids are special and unique in their own way. My eldest daughter struggles with maths and isn't interested in sports. But she is incredibly perceptive and has always been such a loyal friend. She is very shy around new people but once she has figured you out, she's your friend for life through thick and thin. My youngest daughter has dyslexia and asthma and a wicked temper, but also a very carefree attitude to life and can breeze into a room with a smile on her face that lights the room. She is creative and such fun to be around.
And my son is no different. He has a great sense of humour, really bonds with animals and is amazing at sport.. and yes he has autism. Yes he has to go to a special school. We could sit and dwell on that..... and I have come across some people that cant get their head around my son. People who focus on what could and should have been, and the things he cant do. But as his mum I just don't share that mind-set. As scary as the future is, and as challenging as the present can be, I need to keep looking forward. Its my job to help him bit by bit to become as independent as possible. And without sounding all sunshine and flowers he wont achieve anything by focussing on all the things he cant do.
So lets look at this triad of impairments ......
Yes my son struggles with all of the above and more. But he has friends. Granted he doesn't go to birthday parties or other kids houses for tea.. but he has friends! He finds it easier to talk to his friends on headphones whilst playing together on the computer. And he can find it hard to share and takes turns. But he doesn't trap himself in the social lies I do...... We've all been there haven't we?..... like when we get roped into doing something we really don't want to do but don't wanna say no..... then end up making a rubbish excuse to get out of it??... ..No is that just me then ha ha !!
You see he tells a spade a spade and doesn't beat around the bush. He tells people what he really thinks and doesn't really care what other people think about him. He wouldn't say yes to someone when he really means no, and he looks after number 1 ... himself !! (Is that such a bad thing?)
Again yes to all of the above, he doesn't get jokes and sarcasm , but he does have a cracking sense of humour. He loves slapstick comedy I think because its so visually funny and often doesn't have much language (think Mr Bean). And yeah he does struggle remembering information, particularly spoken words...... BUT he can tell you all the potions, spells and characters from any Harry Potter book!!
He struggles to pick up on peoples body language and doesn't understand how his actions and words affect other people. But I think to be fair, people can struggle to understand him too and often don't get how their actions and words can affect him. His anxiety can appear as naughty behaviour. And sadly that's because people just don't understand that his actions and behaviours are his way of letting us know how he is feeling. He cant tell us he finds the room too overwhelming, or the smell too strong, or that what your asking him to do is just too confusing, so he goes into meltdown mode, and I kinda think that's not his fault really ..is it?
I suppose this is a biggy for my son. The changes to routine and anything new really does impact his life in a big way. So we try to combat it by using daily timetables written down and preparing him as soon as possible for any changes. But in a busy family life that's not always easy. Its a working progress
And yes my son does appear quite harsh sometimes when he doesn't appear to care about others and that's something we have just had to get used to, as its not his fault. But he does show incredible empathy and caring towards animals . Its amazing to see. He has several pets as we want to help nurture this skill and hopefully transfer it into other aspects of his life.
So here's my point .....
My son faces many challenges on a daily basis, but that doesn't need to define who he is. If I make the effort to really understand what makes him tick and see things from his point of view I can see the possibilities that lie ahead for him. Even though it worries me and it might not be what I originally had mapped out in my head when he was born. My son is wonderful, unique, complex, exhausting and has challenged me in ways I couldn't even comprehend. But he is who he is and I love him for that.
As his mum what I really want is for you to get know my child, learn to see his differences, not want to change him but embrace him for who he is... He is so much more than the "Triad of impairments" .....And I don't want you to feel sorry for him either.... Tea and sympathy isn't something you will find in my house. (Wine and lots of laundry maybe!!)
I truly belive my son will achieve his potential not 'despite of his autism' but because he is who he is!