Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My son..

This is my son, Oliver. He was born on the 21st of February 2009 and is my first born.
I had a pretty perfect pregnancy and he was born at home in a birthing pool in my bedroom - it was quite a long labour but he was born naturally with no complications.
As soon as I saw him I felt that rush of love that everyone talks about - it was as if I couldn't remember what life without him was like.
He was a perfect baby; he fed and ate well, I never had to rush him to the hospital or doctors, he hit all his milestones in good time except for his speech - at the age of 18 months he still wasn't talking much at all and I started to worry.
Before I became a stay at home mum I worked with babies and children in nurseries and schools, so I suppose I was subconciously comparing Oliver to children I had cared for who were all far more chatty by this stage.
Around this age he also started rejecting food he had once enjoyed..
I don't mean simply pushing it away - he would gag on food or even vomit.
I couldn't understand why this was happening but everyone around me said it could be teething making him fussy and sickly, and that kids go through all sorts of phases which eventually pass - basically not to worry.
My second child, Isabella, was born on the 1st of January 2012 and by this point I was really starting to worry about Oliver - he was having tantrums and became quite withdrawn from me (his main carer and the person he had been closest to emotionally) when his sister was born.
I put it down to jealousy at first, but the more I thought about it the more concerned I got.
He would sit and play with his toys by himself and if I tried to join him he would take the toys from me and push me away. I felt so rejected and wondered what I was doing wrong.
My family kept telling me I had nothing to worry about, that he was a quirky toddler and I should relax, but I just couldn't..
I would watch him moving a spoon backwards and forwards in front of his eyes, or crouching by the coffee table moving trucks and cars back and forth at his eye level and I knew this was different behaviour that I just hadn't seen before.
I typed some of my concerns in to a search engine and "Autism" just kept on coming up..
I hardly knew anything about it, so I did my research and slowly but surely, everything started to make more sense.
I booked an appointment with our gp who I expected to share my concerns but he told me "I've seen autism, I've worked in hospitals and what I'm seeing with your son is not autism.".
As he told me this, I looked at him and I knew I couldn't and wouldn't rest until I'd had a second opinion, so he referred Oliver to a paediatrician. And I'm so glad that he did!
She agreed that Oliver was probably on the autistic spectrum, so sent us for a formal assessment at a clinic and it was there that Oli was officially diagnosed when he turned three years old.
I won't lie, I cried when we got that diagnosis.
I cried happy tears of relief because I knew that I had been right to push for this - that I hadn't been overreacting and worrying too much, and I knew that an official diagnosis would mean help and support for my precious boy.
But I also cried bitter, frustrated tears because I simply didn't want this for my child - Oliver struggles to interact, communicate and lacks flexibility of thought, as well as having a lot of sensory issues - all of this means that everyday life can be a scary and frustrating thing for him.
No parent enjoys seeing their child screaming because a certain sound is too loud or a texture is being processed by their brain as something deeply unpleasant and scary..
I certainly found it challenging trying to get in to Oliver's world, learning what things he needed, which things we could avoid and how to make him happy.
But as time has gone on we've had some amazing help and support - Oli attends a mainstream preschool where he receives amazing support from a team of people who truly care about him and his development.
He's got a specialist preschool teacher who comes to our house and his nursery to work with us all on areas of his development that need attention (such as joint attention and social interaction, his speech and sensory processing issues for example), then when he starts school he'll have a special statement put in place which will enable him to receive help there too.
Oli also has a speech and language therapist who is helping him with his communication and interaction and I did a parent training course called "Good Beginnings" which has helped me no end - it was amazing to meet other parents walking in my shoes.
I think that's one of the hardest things about this - the looks you get when you're out and other parents stare at Oliver because he is different. Or when children his age try to talk to or play with him, not understanding why he won't interact with them.
But I've learnt to put those things out of my mind - instead I'm focusing on my amazing little boy and all those tiny baby steps it's so easy to take for granted.
I'm so proud of the little person he's becoming, and when he runs out of nursery and in to my arms with a huge smile on his face I honestly feel like my heart could burst.

To anybody reading this: Do you know someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder?
If you read this and want to talk about it then please leave a comment - I'd love to chat to people who are in the same boat!


Karen said...

Hi there,
I came across this post through doing a google search for an eyeshadow, of all things, and I'm so glad I stopped by here tonight. I have two children, a daughter who is four and a little son who is two. Neither of them has Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I don't know closely any children who do, but I wanted to respond to your post anyway. I just wanted to say that you sound like a wonderful mother. To say that your deep love for both of your children shines through in what you've written here, and your son is so lucky to have you there as his advocate -- the one who will always try harder, push harder, go the extra mile for him.
The photos here show a beautiful little boy with so much joy in his face -- well done to you for working so hard to understand him and to be there for him. I'm sure much of that joy is thanks to his beautiful mama. I'm very inspired by your story and I wish you and your small family all the best.

Peachypops said...

Hi Karen, thank you SO very much for your lovely comment - it means a lot to hear somebody outside of the situation say something so wonderful!

I will always do my very best for my children, and I think as mothers it just comes naturally to know them inside out and push for whatever it is they need, but it's only when you take a step back and look at how far they've come that you realize that all the challenges you have overcome are paying off :)
It's a great feeling.

Hugs to you and your family! xo