Sunday, 1 December 2013

One year on.

This week marks a year since we first met with our paediatrician.  A year since the words 'He certainly has a very autistic flavour to him' were uttered.  A year since the veil of denial was lifted and we were able to see the blindingly obvious - that our Ollie has an Austism Spectrum Disorder.

What a year it has been.  There have been lows like I have never known.  There have been many tears shed. Fears have been realised. My teeth are slowly being ground down from all of the teeth clenching I have done. I have felt anxiety in the pit of my stomach more times than I care to remember.  Cooking chocolate has been consumed on numerous occasions.  I have been scratched.  I have been bitten.  I have been pinched. I have cleaned up faecal matter from the beautiful curls on Ollie's head and from various other locations.  I have helped our little boy to ride through periods of extreme anxiety in the best way I know how.  I have been frustrated beyond belief in my inability to ease that anxiety.  I have watched strangers stare at him, aware that something is not quite right.  I have wanted to escape to a desert island.

I have also watched Ollie blossom.  I have watched him go from a child who seemed not to care about anything around him to a child who sees joy in the every day.  I have listened to him utter new words, words that I didn't think I would ever hear.  I have heard him say Mamma.  I have heard him say Dadda.  I have heard him say Will.  I have heard him say apple approximately 956 billion times.  He now says 'Lub you' as regularly as I say it to him. I have seen him go from a child who says nothing to a child with developing language skills, and that was my biggest hope.  Spontaneous language has become real.  I have watched him learn the alphabet, and I have heard him count all manner of things.  He now acknowledges the arrival and departure of our nearest and dearest with waves ('wabing'), hellos and bye byes.  He makes contact with his eyes.  I can see Ollie developing every day and I am so excited about what will come next.

A year ago when Ollie was unofficially diagnosed one of the things I feared the most was the damage it may do to my relationship with Elloy.  I knew the stats.  Marriages are torn apart when a disabled child is involved.  I don't know what I was worried about.  All it has done has made us stronger.  I have been with this man since I was a teenager.  All of my adult life.  Nothing about any of this changes us.  We are rock solid, just as we always have been.  I couldn't do any of it without him.  He really is the other half of me.

Will.  A lot of the pain I felt when Ollie was diagnosed had to do with Will.  I worried, still do, about how it would effect him.  A year on I know that it is inevitable that it will effect him.  Nothing we can do changes that.  What I didn't realise was that many of the effects are positive.  Having a brother with an ASD will enrich his life, his personality.  Sure, there are shitty things about Ollie having an ASD.  Ollie gets irritated by Will at times and expresses that irritation by physically lashing out.  We are trying to teach Will how to manage when it happens and he is learning.  I need to remember that siblings fight and it is not always about autism.  Will is learning about tolerating differences at an age so young that it will be a part of his being without any effort.  He is developing in to a nurturing soul, protective of his brother and aware that he needs a different kind of attention.  He is respectful of those differences and I am enjoying watching him become a fabulous big brother.  The boys are slowly starting to play together and it is a joy to watch.  I so hope that they become fast friends.  Time will tell.  

And what of me?  I have grown immeasurably as a person in the past twelve months.  I have seen a strength in myself that I didn't know existed.  I have developed patience in truckloads.  I'm slowly learning to be bulletproof when confronted with ignorance and stupidity.  I have learnt that getting up and going to the gym at 540am doesn't kill me.  In fact it makes my days better, and it gives me the ability to continue to take care of myself.  I need to do that.  I have discovered that cooking chocolate really isn't that bad.

I am learning that most people are good and caring.  Many of my friends are showing me just how true that statement can be.  The interest that people show in Ollie and learning what makes him tick makes me teary on a regular basis.  We have such good people in our lives, and Ollie's diagnosis has meant that we have been blessed with many new friends whom we never would have met.  Our network is increasing every day and I feel buoyed and supported by friendships new and old.  

I couldn't care less about my career.  I doubt there are many people that at the end of their days say that they wish they worked more.  I couldn't care less about material possessions.  I am lucky to have them, but they don't define me, don't define us.  I have come to realise that all that really matters is that we love one another.  These are the cards we have been dealt.  I can't change that.  What I can do is love my boys, all three, with every fibre of my being. That will never change.  

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Please don't let that be me

I have had several conversations lately with people whose ASD children are a little older than Ollie.  I really enjoy seeking the perspective of those who are a few years further ahead in the craziness that is having a child on the autism spectrum.  The wisdom that people have imparted has been and will continue to be invaluable.  There is, however, something that often comes up that worries me.  

So many people are terribly jaded.  It is as if every day is a battleground, a fight against the general public.  The school yard is full of other parents who are to be feared and loathed, no one understands and everyone is the enemy.  It is us versus them.    

People keep telling me that I will lose my optimism, my positivity, my belief that people are generally good.  That in ten years time I too will feel the anger that they feel.  That I'll be one of them.  That I'll walk in to the school yard full of hatred for the other parents, the parents of 'normal' children.  That I will sit at home seething about all of the parties that we aren't invited to, all of the friends that Ollie isn't making, and all of the fun we are missing out on.    

No.  Just no.  

I refuse to believe that I will feel that way.  It won't be me.  I will continue to believe that people are generally caring and good.  Recent experience has shown me that yes, people say stupid things, but I don't believe that they are coming from a bad place.  They just don't know what the right thing to say is.  If we continue to be defensive and oppositional then they will never know the right way.  All they will learn is to stay away.

Maybe Ollie won't be invited to all of the parties, but me being a first rate bitch in the school yard isn't going to help that any, is it? Sure, he is going to have difficulties with making friends, but that won't be the fault of the other parents.  That is something inherent in people with an ASD.  Hating those who don't have the same problems isn't going to change that.  His life is going to be different, but not less.  

I am by nature optimistic and positive.  I like people.  I believe in people.  I also believe in myself and I won't let anyone take that away from me.  This is how I am going to stay.  I promise myself that.  



Wednesday, 23 October 2013

To tell or not to tell?

As I mentioned on my Facebook page, I had a really negative experience this morning with someone's reaction to Ollie's autism.  It has made me rethink my position on being open and honest with everyone about his diagnosis.  Here's what happened.

Will and I picked Ollie up from occasional care.  He spends one morning a week there and it is so good for him.  It was a bit of a rocky start but things are going really well.  When we arrived Ollie was standing at the door crying (not unusual when he sees other mothers arriving and is anticipating our arrival).  One of the carers told me that there had just been an incident where Ollie had hurt another child.  He was playing with a toy and she tried to take it off him so he pushed her (just quietly, how normal does that sound?!).  She was only little, just walking.  There was no damage done and she was not upset.  The mother of the child was there when the incident occurred and was still there so I approached her to apologise.  I told her that he had autism.  Her response was 'I know, it is just that she is little.' and then 'Is it good for him to be with normal children?'.

Her comment completely threw me, and those of you who know me will know that I am not easily thrown. All I could manage to say was 'Yes. Yes it is.'. I felt tears coming and fought them until she had left but couldn't hold them back before we too exited the building, damn it. The carers, who I should add are ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS AMAZING WOMEN!, saw that I was upset and I told them what she had said.  They were all very supportive, reassuring me that of course he was meant to be there etc etc.

The thing is, I know that.  I have no doubt in my mind that he has just as much right to be there as any other child.  That will never change.  All of the people I have come across thus far agree, or at least outwardly appear to agree.

My stance has always been that we should be open and honest about Ollie's diagnosis.  I have many reasons for this stance.  I want people to understand him, and without knowing he is on the spectrum they never will.  It is not like asthma.  Autism is an integral part of who he is.  It wouldn't be fair to him if we kept it hidden.

I also strongly believe that the stigma associated with autism is perpetuated when people choose not to disclose the diagnosis.  I am not ashamed of Ollie's autism.  There is nothing to hide.  He does not have an infectious disease.  I am really sorry to all of you who are reading this who have chosen non-dislosure.  I don't mean for this to be an attack.  I know that you are doing it to protect your child.  It is just not what we have chosen for our child and I will be honest that I don't understand that choice.  It doesn't mean that we can't be friends!

Back to today.  So many things have gone through my head, the first being that perhaps I misinterpreted what she meant.  Maybe she was genuinely asking 'Is it good for him?'. Everything was said without hostility or aggression.  There was a language barrier.  I don't think I am wrong, but I just don't know.  My first line of defence should not always be defensive, and I don't think it is, but this is my child we are talking about, and sometimes I feel like a lioness with her cubs.  Don't mess with my kids bitch!  Maybe it was a little bit of both.  Who knows?  I suppose in the coming weeks I will be able to read her intentions more clearly during drop off and pick up.  I'll keep you posted!  

Regardless of my interpretation it still begs one question - did my disclosure of Ollie's diagnosis change the way this situation was perceived? If Ollie was a typical child (shop speak is neurotypical, or NT) and he pushed the little girl for trying to take the toy, all he would be doing is behaving as children do.  I know plenty of children, including my older neurotypical child, who have reacted physically when another child has touched what they perceive to be their belongings.  It is completely developmentally appropriate.

In fact had this situation occurred when no parent was present I doubt it would have even been reported back, in the case of two typical children.  There have been a few times across the year where I have thought 'Would you be telling me this if Ollie didn't have an ASD?'. Sometimes we, and I put myself in this category too, are so quick to pathologise what really could be the typical behaviour of any toddler.  We need to remember that they too are kids learning to navigate the world.

Do I sometimes do Ollie a disservice by telling people of his diagnosis?

I don't have an answer to this question and I suspect that there is no answer.  I think the benefits of disclosure far outweigh the benefits of keeping it hidden.  I will however pause for a just a second to think on it next time.

I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this topic.  Please comment on my Facebook page.  As with so many issues there are no right or wrong answers, and we must remember that differences of opinion should be celebrated.  :-)

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

How did it feel? Moments in time.

I have been asked many times how I felt when Ollie was diagnosed.  I'm trying to piece it together but can't quite seem to make it all fit so I thought I would present it in the same way that it is in my head.  Here is my stream of consciousness.  

I have a headache.  All the time.  I have realised it is because I am constantly clenching my teeth.  Even in my sleep.  

I can't stop crying.  It has become normal for me to have tears streaming down my face. I wake up at night and the tears are still there.  I don't think I can stop.  

All I think about is autism.  I can't get it out of my head.  In every moment of spare time I pour over the internet, reading reading reading about autism. 

My stomach churns every time we have an appointment.  I feel hollow in the pit of my stomach.  I have lost three kilos in a few weeks because I keep forgetting to eat.  

I read somewhere that I won't feel like this forever.  That it will get better.  I can't see how that is possible.  

There are so many treatment options.  We need to make the right decision but I feel completely overwhelmed by the information.  It must be right.  

It is so hard to tell people without completely falling apart.  

Every time I think about how this will effect Will I am a mess.  

I know things are getting better when I can talk about it without crying.  Maybe what I read was right.  Maybe I will be okay.  

And you know what? I am.  

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

If it wasn't for autism

If it wasn't for autism...we would be able to buy a much bigger house.

BUT you know what? We are happy here.  We always have been.  The size of our house has nothing to do with the quality of our life.  We have created so many happy memories in this house, been through so many life changes under this roof.  I love this house.

If it wasn't for autism...we would not need to draw every single word out of Ollie.  One.  At.  A.  Time.

BUT you know what?  We celebrate every new word in a way that we never would if Ollie didn't have autism.  We have learnt to appreciate every small step in his development and we revel in each and every word that comes out of his mouth.  We notice every single detail.  Autism really has taught me to take time to smell the roses in every aspect of my life.    

If it wasn't for autism...I would be buying more expensive clothes for myself.

BUT you know what? My favourite singlets are from Big W.  Six bucks each.  I have four different colours.  I never would have found them if Ollie wasn't diagnosed with autism because I wouldn't have looked in Big W for singlets!  Material possessions do not a happy family make.  It is love that makes us tick and no money can buy that.  We have love in abundance.  

If it wasn't for autism...Will would have a 'normal' sibling.

BUT you know what?  Will is going to be a better person because of his brother's autism.  We all are.  He will learn compassion for those who are different and an understanding of diversity at a level that he never would if autism wasn't in our lives.  Will also gets many hours of one on one time with me while Ollie is at therapy.  That wouldn't happen if Ollie didn't have autism.

If it wasn't for autism...I would have more time to socialise.

BUT you know what? I have met the most amazing people because of Ollie's autism, people who I consider true friends.  There is a bond that ties us all together and we all need each other. We need people who get us, get our children, get what we are living.  These people would not be in my life if it weren't for autism.

I don't mean for this to be one of those posts about how we have been blessed by having autism in our lives, and that we wouldn't take it back if we could.  If I could take it back I would.  In a heartbeat.  I've got plenty of 'If it wasn't for autism' moments that don't end in a BUT.  They just suck.  There are times when I want to kick autism's arse.  I didn't sign up for this.

It is true what they say though.  Every cloud has a silver lining.  In this case the cloud is big and dark and scary, but that makes the lining big too.

Do you have any 'If it wasn't for autism' thoughts you would like to share?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Our very hungry caterpillar - a week in the life.

People often ask me how much time Ollie spends in therapy each week so I though I would tell a little story about a week in the life of our curly haired monster.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

In the light of the moon a little egg lay on a leaf.

One Sunday morning the cloud was lifted and - pop! - out of the egg came a massive and very anxiety provoking diagnosis.

The caterpillar started to attend some therapies.

On Monday he ate through one 45 minute speech therapy session, but had to go to Grandma and Grandad's first to drop off his brother Will.  He then ate through one three hour Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA - I'll get to what that is later) session.  Off to Grandma and Grandad's again to collect Will.  But he was still hungry.

On Tuesday he ate through another three hour ABA session.  While he was at this session his Mum dropped his brother off at kinder and then came back to collect him.  An afternoon of rest followed, after which time he went with his Mum to pick up Will.  BUT he was STILL hungry.

On Wednesday he ate through one three hour session at a mainstream occasional care centre so that he was able to socialise with typical children in a typical environment.  He then came home for lunch, took his brother to kinder, came home for some rest, and then went back to kinder to collect Will.  BUT he was STILL HUNGRY.

On Thursday he ate through yet another three hour ABA session.  He was lucky that on this day he had no more appointments and was able to rest.  BUT he was STILL HUNGRY!

On Friday he dropped his brother off for an early kinder session and then ate through his last three hour ABA session for the week.  After being picked up he went with his Mum to collect his brother.  In the afternoon he spent some time with his Grandma and Grandad.  BUT HE WAS STILL HUNGRY!!!

On Saturday he ate through his favourite part of the week, his swimming lesson, and then spent some time with his Nanna, Papa, Uncle and cousins.

The next day was Sunday again.  The caterpillar ate through a nice day of playing and relaxing (sometimes involving an ice cream from Dairy Bell) and after that you would think he would feel much better but he really preferred the routine during the week.

Now he wasn't hungry any more - and he wasn't a little caterpillar any more.  He was a caterpillar that was filling up with new skills, new ways to cope, and new ways to communicate.

He built a small cocoon with these new skills, and when he pushed his way out...

he was a beautiful butterfly.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

I'm back.

I started this blog back in January and just didn't have the head space to give it the time it needed.  I'm back for another go.  I want to be able to share what I learn along the way in this crazy land of autism, and I also believe that it is a good platform to be able to help to educate the broader community about what an Autism Spectrum Diagnosis is and how it impacts those who are living it.  I'm doing it as much for me as for anyone else.  I want to record the path we travel and be able to look back on where we have come from.

I re-read the few posts that I wrote earlier in the year and realised that we have all come such a long way since then.  Ollie is coming along in leaps and bounds, and reading these posts made me feel excited about how he will change and grow over his lifetime.  I hope to be able to share it with you, warts and all.

Here goes.  Mark two.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

One step ahead

When you have a child with an ASD you become really good at predicting disasters.  You can walk in to a room, perform a quick survey of potential triggers and do one of two things.

The first thing you can do is avert the crisis.

An example.

Our son Ollie can get fixated on iPhones and iPads.  When he is using them in a supervised manner at therapy they are nothing short of fabulous.  I can't sing their praises enough.  When put into the hands of Ollie in an unstructured manner they spell out danger.  He plays with them in a way that provides no educational benefit, flipping from app to app in the blink of an eye without taking any notice of what he has seen, constantly searching for the right sound, the right tune.  Once found he will press the same button over and over and over and over again.  When he is in that zone it is extremely difficult to snap him out of it, and when the phone or tablet is inevitably taken away from him he throws a tantrum of epic proportions.  Every.  Single.  Time.  I get scratched and pinched, he thrashes about and hits his head on me or anything else nearby, he sobs, and at times gets so worked up that he makes himself vomit.  Not pretty.

To prevent this from happening I ALWAYS walk in to a room and move phones and iPads out of reach.  When people are at my house I ask them to put their phones up high.  I found it really uncomfortable being so directive to start with, but the pay off is that we don't get epic tantrums!  It is really the only thing that elicits such a response in him (for now!).

When we are out and about people always say to me 'Stop checking on him!', 'He's fine!', 'Relax!'.  They mean well, and for the most part there is nothing to worry about.  Ollie really is quite low maintenance most of the time, but we need to be one step ahead to keep it that way.  There are very few places where I can relax, like truly sit down and not worry, in a way that I could if Ollie were neurotypical.  It is just not going to happen.  He has no sense of danger, no sense of space.  He could wander out of someone's front door and out in to the street, in his own little world, and then suddenly freak out because I wasn't there.  He'd be lost.  He would be unable to communicate.  He would have NO IDEA of how to find me, how to find a safe person. It sounds terribly dramatic, but this is a reality in our lives.  

The second thing you can do when you see a disaster on its way is brace for impact.  You see the storm coming well before it hits, realise that you are powerless to prevent it, and you man up and hope to ride it out swiftly.

Birthday parties are situations where we have to brace for impact with our little guy.  He is absolutely lip dropping, body trembling, mumma climbing, koala clinging terrified of groups of people singing happy birthday within earshot.  He always has been.  Initially, long before the A word was mentioned to us, we thought it was a phase that he would grow out of.  There are plenty of kids who don't like it when people sing happy birthday at their first birthdays.  Sure, Ollie's reaction was a little more extreme, but we thought it to be normal.  It isn't.  It is an area where he experiences sensory overload and needs help to ride through it.  At every party we know it is going to happen, but it isn't exactly reasonable to ask that they hold off on singing happy birthday, is it? I remember at Ollie's second birthday we made the decision not to sing.  It was his birthday and he hates it, so there.  Many of the kids were disgruntled by this decision!  So we ride the storm.  We try as hard as we can to minimise the fear.  We take him to another room, stand on the periphery of the crowd, preoccupy him with something else, but sometimes we are just not far enough away and he gets really, really scared.

It is those days when you don't see the disaster coming that are the hardest.  When all is well in the world and them BAM! out of nowhere the storm rages.  Those are the days where it smacks me in the face that yes, we have a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it is not going away.  We are going to have days that totally suck.  We are going to feel helpless and overwhelmed.  We are going to need to eat the cooking chocolate that is stashed in the baking cupboard because we decided not to buy chocolate this week.

But you know what? Those days are a lot less frequent than the days where I feel totally overwhelmed with how consumed with love I am for my family and for everything that we have, everything that we are.  Most days I just want to squish my boys, all three, because I love them so much.  Most days I go to bed knowing that we are living life to the fullest, and I will not, I refuse to let myself be broken by this.  These are the cards that we have been dealt and I am going to do everything in my power to make sure that we experience life to the fullest, that we take time to smell the roses, and that we use all of our unique gifts, whatever they may be, to really live life.

Early on when Ollie was diagnosed I read a blog post that really resonated with me.  I have completely forgotten who wrote it.  At the time I spent every spare moment trawling the internet for words of wisdom.  It was my solace.  The words of this blog will stay with me forever.

There is a danger in trying to avoid a crisis.  You might end up missing out.  Just because there might be a storm ahead, and I say might, doesn't mean that you shouldn't go out.  You might be wrong.  The storm might completely pass you by, and in its place may be the most beautiful sunshine you have ever seen.  It might not too, but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't try to see the sun.  If you are constantly trying to avoid the storm you will miss out on how beautiful that sun can be.

I will be damned if I am not going to help my son to see sunshine wherever possible.  Sure, sometimes we will be wrong and the storm will rage, but the next day we will wake up, start again, and keep on experiencing life to the fullest.  We WILL see the sun.        

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Our story so far...

Our first son, Will, was born in 2008.  What an insane time it is when your first child arrives.  There is so much anxiety, so much learning to be done, so much joy.  Will progressed as predicted.  He has always been such a people person, smiling and talking to passers by, engaging anyone who will listen to him in conversation and activity.  He was conversational at a very young age.  He was able to speak in full sentences by the age of two, which made the arrival of Ollie in 2010 a lot easier on him as we were able to tell him what was happening, and he understood. It was such an easy transition from a one child to a two child family.

There was so much joy again to be had when Ollie was born.  As is common with most mothers I was unsure that I would be able to feel a bond so strong with a second child, but when he emerged the bond was instantaneous.  I should never have doubted that I would feel so strongly.  Ollie was a really easy baby, settling in to a sleep routine early, loving cuddles, and meeting all of his developmental milestones at the expected age.  He walked a little later than most, but so did Will so we didn't think anything of it (and still don't to be honest).  He started saying words at around the time that most kids do and we had no concerns about him, until he was two.

When we took him to his two year old appointment with the maternal and child health nurse she appeared to be very happy with his progress and wasn't at all concerned that his speech hadn't picked up as quickly as most children of his age.  We weren't concerned either.  Yet.  She said to wait until he was two and a half before worrying.  To Wait and See.  But then I went away and I thought about it.  I started to realise that there were plenty of words that he had stopped saying.  He once said 'ater' to signify water, but now he just reached for the bottle.  He used to say milk but now he just opened the fridge.

My mother expressed concern that maybe he had a hearing problem.  My brother had trouble with his ears when he was a child and this effected his speech development.  At this stage we all but decided Ollie was deaf.  It was such an easy explanation.  Easy to explain and easy to fix.  I phoned the maternal and child health nurse and spoke with someone other than my regular nurse.  She sounded very concerned when I told her about Ollie's lack of speech and loss of speech.  She asked more questions about his behaviour.  Big red flags started to appear, ones that I hadn't even thought of before.  Ollie didn't point.  Red flag.  A friend had mentioned that the teachers at her child's kinder were concerned that her child walked on his toes as this was a characteristic of autistic children.  Mr Right, my husband, highlighted that Ollie walked on his toes quite a lot.  Red flag.  That same friend subtly mentioned some other autistic traits in a message.  Flapping.  Running on the spot.  Playing alone.  Red flag red flag red flag.

We arranged to go to an audiologist and I clung to the belief that he was deaf.  As the title of this blog suggests, he was not.  You would think that we would have been over the moon after receiving the news that our child had perfect hearing.  We were not.  We were both disappointed.  It meant that there must be some other reason why he wasn't yet talking.  The A word was looming large in my mind but I pushed it back.  Hard.

It was about then that my denial set in.  I mentioned our concerns about Ollie's speech to my nearest and dearest.  He's a late bloomer.  Second child.  Boys always take longer to talk.  Will has given you a false idea of how speech develops because he did it so early.  He's perfectly normal.  Will talks for him.  I know someone who didn't talk until they were five and then they started talking in full sentences.  Wait until he's two and a half.  Wait until he is three.  All of these were well meaning comments that helped me to live in a state of denial for that little while longer.  They were all right.  There was nothing wrong with our child.  Perfectly normal.

I phoned our maternal and child health nurse yet again to let her know that the audiologist had found no problems with Ollie's hearing.  It had been suggested previously that we should come in to do an assessment called the Brigance if his hearing test appeared normal.  We made an appointment for a few weeks down the track.  In the meantime I spent hours trawling the internet looking for information that could help me to explain away what I knew in my heart of hearts to be true.  It was during this time that I stumbled across a blog that terrified me.  It was a post titled So You're Wondering If Your Child Might Be Autistic on the blog Flappiness Is.  This blog remains one of my favourites.  Go and check it out for a wonderfully well rounded, positive yet no mucking about read about life with a child who is on the autism spectrum.  I will forever remain indebted to this woman for dragging me out of denial and in to action mode.  Denial is comfy but it doesn't help anyone in the end.

I digress.  This blog post listed common traits in autistic children, along with her own behaviour when she was first faced with the possibility that her child may be autistic. She was me.  Her child was Ollie.  What she had written was my life, Ollie's life.  If was as if I had taken to the laptop and written the post myself.

In the post, after she written all of the potential red flags (all of which resonated with me), she wrote 'so now the theme to Jaws is playing in your head'.  Yes.  Yes it was.  I was all of a sudden sure that Ollie was autistic.  I cried.  A lot.  I tried to wait until the kids had gone to be at night to mention my fears to Mr Right but I ended up just blurting it out when we had a brief moment to spare whilst in the midst of the dinner/bath/bed routine.  He read the post and didn't agree that Ollie fit her description.  He was still worried, but he didn't want to automatically skip to autism.  I spoke to my parents.  My fears were alleviated once more.  He's just a late bloomer.  He's only two.  He's fine.  I can't see any of the things that you are worried about.  I once more surrounded myself in a cocoon of denial.

We went to the maternal and child health nurse once more for her to administer the Brigance Early Childhood Screen to check Ollie's development.  I had looked up what the test entailed before the appointment and knew that he would not do well, and during the test I unknowingly assisted him to 'do better'.  I stretched truths.  Mr Right told me afterwards that I was very defensive during the appointment.  I didn't mean to be.  I was still desperately clutching on to the hope that our son was 'normal'.  The nurse was concerned.  I could see it in her face.  She suggested that we should be referred to Early Childhood Intervention Services (ECIS) but didn't really tell us what that was all about, and because I was trying to normalise everything I didn't ask.  I didn't want to know.  All she told us was that there was a minimum of twelve weeks wait to receive a phone call from an intake worker.

I was able to put my concerns on the back burner after that.  We decided to take the wait and see approach.  It was on my mind every single day but I managed to believe that everything was ok.  I discovered that a woman from my book club was a speech therapist and spoke to her about our concern that Ollie had not started talking.  I could see in her face that she thought there might be something more that just late speech development at play.  She suggested that we go and see a paediatrician rather than a speech therapist as our first port of call.  I phoned another speech therapist who was recommended to us, and she suggested the same thing, although she managed to alleviate my fears, saying that a lot of kids with late speech mimic the symptoms of autism.  She said a lot of two year olds walk on their toes.  She was right.  He was fine.  He was normal.

I looked on the internet for paediatricians and after doing some research settled on Dr Who and made an appointment six weeks from then.  I again settled in to denial, but it was always in the back of my mind, always lurking, and every day the A word surfaced in my head.  I compiled a list of our concerns in my phone in case we became nervous and forgot the details when we were at Dr Who's office.  The list was a mile long.  Who has a list like that when their child is 'normal'? By the time we got to Dr Who we were both in a really positive frame of mind regarding Ollie and expected the paediatrician to tell us to come back in six months.  To Wait and See.  He didn't.

I became upset during the appointment, and Dr Who said 'That is understandable. This boy has some problems.'.  Bomb shell.  It was then that I realised that he wasn't going to say that everything was alright.  To Wait and See.  He said that although he would normally be loathe to mention a diagnosis in the first appointment that Ollie had a very autistic 'flavour' about him and that he was fairly certain he was mildly to moderately autistic.  Massive bomb shell.  The rest of the appointment is a complete blur.  He told us that we now needed to go and see a speech therapist, a psychologist, and to have a urine test done.  I, we, were in a massive state of shock.  Odd given that in my heart of hearts I already knew, but the mind plays funny tricks on you as a defence mechanism, and I had been in full defence mode.

Stripped of denial I watched our son and though 'Of course he is bloody autistic!'.  How could I have managed to dismiss so many truths about him? The toe walking.  The repetitive movements.  The lack of eye contact.  The speech regression.  The lack of pointing.  The list went on and on.  It was all so clear to me, and a wave of relief crashed over me.

We knew.  It was true and it was ok.  No more denial.  No more Wait and See.  No more is he or isn't he.

We both went to the car after our appointment and had a big cry.  I continued to cry for days and days.  Mr Right said that he didn't want to cry anymore because there was nothing to be sad about.  He was right.  Ollie was still Ollie.  Life for him, for us, would be different to the script, but you know what? That was ok.  We were going to get this beautiful boy the help he needed and we were going to remain the happy family that we always had been.  This would change things, but it wouldn't change that.

I went back and re-read the post written by Flappiness Is, the one that had terrified me.  This time it didn't terrify me at all.  This time it filled me with hope for the future.

    'You will need to remember that your child has not been taken from you.  This is the child you were given all along.  And no one, no one, is better suited to be his champion.  You are allowed to cry.  Try not to do it in front of him.  And then you are going to have to put on your proverbial Big Girl (or Boy) Panties.  Suck it up.  You already knew you'd walk though fire for him.  So suit up.'

Flappiness Is.

Well I am suited up.  Bring it on.  Whatever the future may hold for our little family, I am ready.  



Friday, 4 January 2013

And so it begins...

I have ummed and ahhed about whether to start this blog.  It seems that every mother of a child on the autism spectrum writes a blog.  I have read so many, and I have gained so much from that reading.  Maybe I can help others through my writing, just as others have helped me.  I want to diarise the 'journey' (I despise that term but it really is fitting in this circumstance) that we have recently commenced with our little Ollie.  What better way to do it than with a blog? Here goes...