My 4 year old has autism. He came into my care when he was seven weeks old and the first thing we did together was go to the ophthalmologist where I was told he was totally blind.
We’ve been through a lot together and every Mother’s Day (all four of them), even though he’s supposed to be making me breakfast in bed and bringing me presents that he made himself (yeah, yeah yeah, I know…he’s 4!), I thank him and give him extra special hugs and kisses, because this little boy has made me a mother. He has done what I couldn’t do myself.
Luckily the blindness was due to a delayed maturation of the optic nerve and by about 6 months I knew he could see – how much and how well was another issue, but he definitely had some sight.
Unluckily, it turns out that for him, EVERYTHING is about the brain. As time went on and this beautiful baby fell further and further behind his little friends at playgroup it became clear that something was going on. Just what that was took a little longer to get an answer on.
So the motherhood dream crossfaded from idealism to hardcore reality, as it must for all parents at one point or another.
So what has being the parent of a little man with autism taught me? (I’m leaving out all the obvious ones)
- I can survive on not much sleep. In fact I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep since he came into my care, but that’s not entirely his fault – I do keep fostering those little bubbas!
- Sometimes the smallest things are the greatest. Seeing him make a milestone that comes so easily to other kids or sharing a joke that only he & I get – very precious.
- Never take your ability to communicate for granted. The frustration of not being able to ask for what you want or understand what is happening would send most of us into a flapping rage within about 5 minutes.
- Little girls with gorgeous flowing curly hair are like a big beeping target for my little guy – watch out princesses!
- It’s worth teaching your kids how to go to a café. It’s all about strategy & timing but I’ve been amazed to find that my kids often behave better than others.
- Roaring is fun. When you find yourself getting frustrated with whatever is going on at the time (the packet of cereal just got flipped and is now spread high & low around the room or that important document just got ripped into a million tiny little confetti like pieces etc.), then roaring like a lion as loudly as possible for as long as necessary is a great way to let off some steam, entertain the kids and distract them from their task. Hand actions help too.
- Silly dances are even more fun – no explanation necessary.
Autism keeps you in the now. It’s so hard to predict how things are going to go. Will he be toilet trained before he starts school? Don’t know. Will he ever communicate fluently? Don’t know. Will he ever have friends of his own? Don’t know. There’s no way to generalise except to say we have a ‘known unknown’ situation.
Questions I can answer – did he eat lunch? Yep, did he have fun today? Yep, did he go to bed tired and happy? Yep. I can live with that.