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.