The A-Word

My youngest son is being assessed for Autism. He will be four years old in a few weeks. He’s due to see a variety of specialists in July and we should have a diagnosis or conclusion before he starts school in September. A diagnosis would be helpful but I don’t need one to know that my son has needs that go beyond the norm- certainly at this stage in his life.

He was born three weeks early by emergency C section. He wasn’t ready to be born and I wasn’t ready to give birth. I wasn’t even in labour! I’d decided, this being my third time around, that I would swan through the labour ward feeling calm and looking glam. But vanity got me nowhere because fate had other ideas. I became ill pretty quickly and it came to pass that I staggered into the labour ward looking like Alice Cooper!

But that was the least of my worries. I was in agony! After an hour of observation, I was descended on by theatre staff, patched up and wheeled off. It all happened so fast. Before I knew it, little man was in his dad’s arms and someone was doing the washing up in my tummy. Bleugh!

His entry into the world was dramatic and a shock to his little system. I say little, despite being three weeks early, he still weighed in at 9lbs and 7oz! First thing he did was to pee all over the nurse as if to say ‘Have that for disturbing me, ha!’ His skin was yellow instead of pink and his eyes were so dark they looked black. He looked a bit Damien if I’m being honest… though my paranoia may have been morphine induced. He wasn’t ready for the world and maybe that is why he finds the simplest of things overwhelming. He has a need for routine and repetition which goes beyond the norm. Maybe he’s sensitive? We don’t know why yet. 

We noticed that he was late with his milestones but I wasn’t that concerned at first. When I started taking him to playgroup it became obvious that he was lagging behind a bit. The staff at the playgroup mentioned it a few times but they didn’t seem overly concerned either. Then there were the tantrums, complete and utter meltdowns- one after the other. There’s always a child at playgroups that stands out- The child where the other mothers smile and nod but secretly think to themselves, ‘thank gawd that kid isn’t mine’. Well, that child was mine.

I’ve been here before though. My eldest (C) was hyper as a child. He had more energy than the ladies at the church playgroup could handle, so they banned him. One day, they told me that he was out of control and I wasn’t to bother bringing him again until he could behave. Then there was the incident at another playgroup, where he ran amok with a plastic sword, shouting “COWABUNGA DUDE!” Those Mutant Turtles have a lot to answer for! This was also a church playgroup but my mother-in-law was a member so they tolerated him. They breathed a huge sigh of relief when he started nursery. So I’ve had experience of problematic behaviour. Even so, I found my little boy’s behaviour bewildering to say the least.
He kicked, screamed and cried his way through the playgroup sessions. I always had to leave early because he would spoil story time for everyone else. His arms would be flailing as I carried him to the car. I say carried, it was like trying to keep a firm grip on a cranky haddock. I would battle to strap him into his car seat, then I would climb into the drivers seat and slump over the steering wheel, defeated, worn out and wanting my mum!

I took him to the playgroup as much as I could but it was hard trying to cope with him. When he wasn’t running around wrecking the joint, he was doing his impression of a wet noodle on the floor.

I documented little mans behaviour in a journal. I noted his obsession with numbers and letters, mostly numbers, his melt-downs in public and at home and how his behaviour deteriorated if there was any change of routine,no matter how small. I wrote about these things and much more. It’s far from all bad though. He is extremely loving as well.

Then the time came for him to go to nursery. It was decided that we wouldn’t say anything to the nursery staff about his behaviour. We wanted to see if they picked up on anything from their own observations. It was the second week when the nursery manager took me to one side and told me that they were having problems with him. I told her about our concerns and it was agreed that he would be referred to a child psychologist. 

The psychologist came to observe him at the nursery and concluded that he has issues with speech, personal, social and emotional development. He is at Action Plus stage at nursery and support will be in place for his transition to school. This is where my fear for my little boy really starts.

I have sensory problems and when I get overwhelmed, I become introverted. This has always been mistaken for shyness but shyness can be overcome. No matter how many times I do the same thing, my reactions will always be the same. Little man is the opposite, he is extroverted and this is mistaken for being naughtiness. Sometimes, he is naughty but mostly it’s because he simply can’t cope. This is obvious to me, because I’ve lived it.

I worry about how he will cope with school. It’s taken 7 months, but he’s finally settled at nursery. He watches the clock and runs to the nursery door. I know he’s had a good day when I go to fetch him and he points at me saying “Not you!” and runs off. This means he’s having fun and doesn’t want it to end. The environment suits him. All this will change in September and the only thing that stops me from really panicking, is the fact that he will have support when he starts. Support is based on need, not diagnosis. It makes me feel slightly easier.

I don’t know if his problems are down to Autism or like me he’s highly sensitive. Whatever the reason, this is who he is. I just wish that we lived in a more accepting and loving world. The fact that we don’t fills me with dread. I know what it’s like to be a mis-fit. I’ve experienced cruelty more times than I care to remember, but I would rather go through it all again than have my children experience one minute of it. I might be proved wrong, he might thrive where I failed to. School could be a positive experience for him. With all my heart, I hope this will be the case.




8 thoughts on “The A-Word

  1. Good luck with this – he and you sound wonderful. I know of a book – and will have to hook out the title – about children born by c section – a spiritual one, with how they come into the world differently and it affects their outlook and expectations on life. Will endeavour to remember it 🙂

  2. Thanks for the kind words… really appreciate it. Let me know if you do remember the title of that book-it sounds like my kind of reading. 🙂

  3. first things first, sending you lots of hugs it can be tough time yet completely understandable. I think it is great that he is getting assessed at t his age, it sounds like you are in a good catchment area. Always keep your options open though as school doesn’t always suit all children, especially as they get older and are expected to fit into the boxes the school system creates. Always go with your gut instinct regardless of what some may say, never take no for an answer or be afraid of being a pushy parent when trying to get answers. I honestly wish I did all those years ago (7 in total) but can honestly say since pulling my son out of the school system have never looked back. He didn’t fit into any of the boxes no matter how much the school tried and it left him more than miserable.

  4. Thanks for your kind words. 🙂 I'm not expecting a diagnosis at this stage in his life because despite his problems, he's high functioning. But you never know… His behaviour has improved because he is happy in the environment he is in.Like me, he thrives in smaller environments. I came away from school with nothing to show for being there because it took all my time to cope with the overwhelming stimuli. If I'd have had some support at school, it might have been different for me. He has a great key worker at nursery and hopefully he will connect just as well with the SENCO at school. If my boy is happy, then I'm happy. First sign of him being unhappy, I will be in there faster than a seagull on a chip! 🙂 Thank you so much for your comment

  5. Its great that the early years settings have been so supportive and that you're getting your son assessed so young. Hopefully you'll get a better idea of what's going on. If not its great that they're basing support on need rather than diagnosis which is what it should be. I know school can be a daunting prospect when you have a child with additional needs but with careful transition the early years staff & school should be able to ease the move for your son. School also have a graduated system of support for children with additional needs (similar to the early years one); the SENCO should be able to advise you on this and how they are going to support your son. Good luck. Deb

  6. Thanks Deb,We went to the school induction evening last night and were reassured by the staff. It looks to be a lovely place with caring teachers. It's not a big school so that may work in my son's favour. I will be on pins for the first few weeks until I get some idea of how he is coping with them and vice versa. I'm dreading the "Can we have a word with you please" scenario, if I'm being honest but all we can do at this point, is prepare him as much as possible and then let him go…Thanks for your comment. 🙂

  7. Firstly you should be proud how your life has turned out, first baby at 17, not many girls could cope with that. Two children down and you expected the 3rd just to be the same. Sometimes life just throws things in our direction when and to people who can cope with it. You and "Fred" are great parents to little man and you stand up for him with authorities, getting and putting into place things for his future when he stars big school

  8. Thanks Sheerie xxxWe're doing our best for little man but sometimes I feel out of my depth. :/ Like when he had a melt-down on Saturday and he stood there kicking and spitting at me outside the shops. 😦

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