Our son’s autism diagnosis came when he was two years old. He’s nine now. People often ask questions like did you know something wasn’t right? Do things get easier with time? Looking back, he showed some mild signs very early in his development. He would quickly move his feet back and forth continuously. A pediatrician called this stereotyped movements, and a Google search taught me that this could be associated with autism.
But back then he was always smiling at us and I hadn’t suspected a thing. Anyway, he was a baby. Surely a small baby couldn’t be displaying symptoms of autism? Later in his development he regressed suddenly, and was soon displaying a lot of symptoms of autism. He stopped babbling and stopped making eye contact. He was soon non-verbal and spent most of his time shaking his head, or staring at his hands. He didn’t react to his name or point at things. My brother is autistic, and before long we felt like we knew what we were dealing with.
Recognizing the signs helped us to accept the diagnosis very early on. Getting the diagnosis at a young age allowed early intervention. We had a statement of special educational needs written and he started attending a special school. Without a doubt this was the best thing we ever did for him.
It was a difficult choice at the time, as he was so young. It was three months before his third birthday when he started school full time. He looked so small in his school uniform. But the staff there are very experienced in autism, and they were soon using autism-specific techniques likes PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System). Our son has made so much progress since then. He has some speech and he is an excellent reader. I put this this down to the help he received at school.
Thanks to early intervention he’s made great progress and achieved things we feared he might never achieve. But autism will always be with him. It will never leave, and he will always be at the severe end of the spectrum.
That’s not to say life is all doom and gloom. It’s just he will always face challenges and we will always be with him to face them. Life with autism is hard. Really hard. He is who he is, and we love him the way he is. But I’d be lying if I said it’s easy.
Communication can be frustrating. He can be extremely anxious, angry or overwhelmed, and I do wish I could take that away. We just try our best to help him manage. But he’s also blissfully happy in between, sometimes laughing to himself at nothing at all. He doesn’t care how the world views him. He does whatever he wants.
I have days when I cry because I hate seeing him struggle. But it’s okay to feel like that. Sometimes I feel like I’m failing him. But that’s not helpful to him or me. Above all, he’s also taught me that I have the strength to get back up when I fall. We didn’t imagine a life with autism. Our end of the spectrum is a very difficult path, but it also brings the most unbelievable happiness.