I have mentioned briefly in my past blogs, that my middle child Louie has Autism. He was diagnosed aged 3 after I took him to my GP and said I wanted the referral. From there he had an assessment conducted by an educational psychologist and speech therapist as well as other professionals. They attempted various tests through play. This went on for roughly an hour and then they left the room to make his diagnosis. They confirmed what I already knew, that he was autistic. I asked whether he was classed as high functioning. Apparently they don’t actually use that label anymore but yes, if they did, then he would be. Louie is now 4 years old and will begin full time school in September.
Many people ask me how I knew. I graduated in 2007 with a BA (Hons) degree in Primary Education and began my first teaching post after being offered a job at my last student placement. I taught mainly KS2 (7 to 11 years) and loved my job! I taught children with a range of Special Education Needs and in my 4th year was asked to teach a small focused group of 8 Year 6 boys, all with statements of SEN. Therefore I was quite aware of the social and developmental characteristics of autism around that age.
Louie was a happy, healthy baby weighing 7.5lbs, 3 weeks early. He was born just a year after my first child Alice so 2 children in 13 months was always going to be a challenge! Their sibling bond was amazing right from the start and they are so close even now. Louie met all of his developmental milestones and was full of character. However there were a few points which my mum noted in that first year. One night she was helping me put them to bed and I told her how Louie liked to be left laying in his cot after his bottle and not rocked or cuddled till he fell asleep like Alice. Shopping trips to the supermarket were horrific, I know most parents will say this, but with Louie it seemed he was genuinely terrified. I have come to the conclusion that it was the lighting in supermarkets causing this. Trips to the beach and park also seemed to cause him distress and as he came into his twos I would notice he hated different textures. He would cry and scream if his bare feet touched sand or grass. This was the point I started having suspicions.
I kept my thoughts to myself and observed as he grew. At this point his language definitely started to slow down in terms of progression. We made our big move to the countryside and his behaviour and social development deteriorated further. He would become so frustrated and have violent outbursts. It was when we took him to a Christmas Fayre in a busy cathedral that I knew my feelings were right. Louie was now 3 and the crowds, noise and colours sparked off the biggest meltdown I had ever witnessed. He ran away from me, through the crowds and when he couldn’t see an exit he hid under a table with his hands over his eyes, rocking back and forth. I crawled underneath with him despite the stares and tuts I received and my baby boy let me hold him and soothe him. Once he was calm I held him and took him away from the fayre and told my husband it was time to take some action.
“Oh he’ll grow out of it” “It’s just the terrible threes, mine skipped the twos and had the tantrums at 3″”We went to bed without any dinner if we behaved like that as kids” “He’ll be alright it’s just where you’ve moved and all the change” “I think they just label all kids these days”
These were some of the initial comments I received from friends and family. Some days they hurt, some days they enraged me, some days I laughed to myself and let them pass me by. I knew I had done the best thing for Louie, having him diagnosed and fighting for it so early. Also our move to the countryside meant the NHS waiting list was not as long and the resources available to him have been unbelievable in comparison to what I fought tirelessly for with my pupils in London.
However this was just the beginning of a long, ongoing road that my immediate family are set to travel. Louie’s autism does not just affect him, but his siblings and our whole family. Join me as I share with you our struggles and joys through our journey together. I hope I help to educate people and help alleviate some of the ignorance around autism. I look forward to hearing other people’s journeys!