Monday, 30 April 2012

10 fingers and 10 toes, all is perfect...

That moment you receive your precious little newborn and hold them in your arms - its so great - when you first meet them and to know they are all healthy and well.  They are breathing, good colour, have hand markings and everything in the right place, a few days later they are heal pricked and tests come back fine - you breathe a sigh of relief - everything is 'normal' but its not always that straightforward. They feed, poop, wee, wind, everything a newborn does - its exhausting but great getting to know your new bundle of joy.

With my first child, it wasn't quite so straightforward.  It was a difficult birth, he had colic and didn't feed contently, he struggled with his wind and I had PND.  It took a while for all these things to settle. I started to relax and enjoy motherhood around 6 months but it was at least a year before I could even consider the possibility of having another child and would never thought I would ever have 4.

Through the toddler years, things changed.  I guess that once they passed the initial health checks that unless there was a terrible accident, your child would develop normally.  I didn't really think about my son having a disability at all.  This chapter of our lives is a really hard one and i have really had to think hard about sharing it.  I hope through sharing our story that it will help others, who may find themselves on this road.

The toddler years were really hard.  I loved my son so much but he was just 'different' to the other children.  As he was my first and i had no experience with children at all, I just assumed this was normal - motherhood is hard (as you are told), other people always seemed willing to confirm this for you.  Other people would comment 'oh he's so bright' 'oh he's very forward' 'strong willed children are good - he won't be forgotten about in nursery''wow what a temper' 'he knows his own mind, that will be good for him when he's older' or the classic 'he's just a boy'

I remember at 9months old he worked out the child lock on the cabinet, i thought that's a bit strange but he knew exactly what to do - when he wanted something.  He reached his milestones perfectly and had really good/clear speech.  I had no reason to suspect anything or so i thought.  He was really bright counting, alphabet, sounding out letters - came easily to him.  I remember taking him to an eyesight check and the health visitor was so surprised at how he could name all the letters as well as sound them out.  She asked what I did, as she had only ever known 2 twin boys to do that before (sons of doctors) at his age.  I am proud to be a wife and stay at home mum but i don't think that was the answer she was looking for, so she asked what my husband did - he works in IT.  She looked at me confused as though we had missed out on our calling in life.  He also has an amazing memory and can recount facts/figures/situations really well from a young age.

Well not only did he stand out as being very bright, he was also very challenging.  He was into everything and from the moment he woke up to the moment he crashed out, he went for everything at light speed - nothing seemed to hold his attention for very long.  I was told 'because he was so bright'.  I found it very frustrating that my child, who everyone spoke of as being very bright, could not seem to understand, what i believed to be basic commands/social skills.  I use to long for a child that would just watch TV, just so i could make dinner in peace - after all if you believe the media - there are children practically bought up on cbeebies, my son couldn't sit still for just 5 minutes.

I remember getting so angry, only for him to get even worse.  He would also have extreme sensory reactions, although at the time I had no idea what they were or they even existed - i just thought he was being extremely difficult.  He was obsessional - must have certain food at certain times of the day, presented in a certain way on a certain plate.  Each time it came to washing his hair/nails/haircut, it was an epic battle.  I had to watch over him all the time as he would just run off without any care whether i was there or throw a massive fit over what i thought was nothing.  I went on a parenting course, read lots of parenting books and watched supernanny etc, sought after health visitors advice.  I did the things they suggested and whilst somethings helped or helped for a while, nothing really improved.

When I spoke to others they would just laugh, shrug it off - oh all kids do that - but no they don't.  Yes all children will throw a paddy at some point over the things above but this was different.  The anger that my son displayed was not like a tantrum that my other children have kindly displayed (so i now know the difference).  Children do not scream endlessly because the food you have served them is not in 4 exact quarters - for the rest of the day. They communicate their needs.  When I am cross at my other children or show emotions, they read my body language and understand.  They may not like the situation and throw a temper fit but eventually they understand and comply. They may not be able to express in words (as too young) but  their face will show understanding through sorrow, guilt or acceptance.  He did not, in fact this made it all the worse.  I could recount endless stories or examples of the obsessions/behaviours/sensory difficulties he has faced but would take endless posts.  I was really struggling yet I loved him to bits.  As everyone commented on how bright he was and that their children also did what mine did, I felt I was the failure, so in the end I would stop telling others how bad or how violent he would be.  I think people are quick to empathise with you and assure you there is nothing wrong, in a caring way.  However if they stopped to really listen and realise that i did not exaggerate his behaviours or that this was a constant and not a one off action, then maybe they would have been brave to say thats not normal and we would have seeked help sooner.  My parenting confidence was at an all time low and i felt shameful of his behaviour.  I tried to hide it as much as possible.

I did my best to be the best parent for him.  I seeked advice, i acted upon it and I didn't give up on trying to teach him right from wrong.  I am a strong willed person and i didn't give up for the easy life.  It was really hard.  When he went to playschool, we had a number of difficulties until one day the manager requested a meeting with myself and my husband.  I remember being filled with dread - i really do the best I can, we do the best we can.  I was imagining the worst, that she was going to declare we were unfit parents or our child was to be expelled.  However at the meeting she told us that she believed our son to be on the spectrum and has mild autism.  My husband and I had completely different reactions.  I felt complete and utter relief - I'm not a bad parent there is a reason why my son behaves the way he does.  My husband felt scared - our son is autistic!!?? Now what????

So began our journey...

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