As parents, we are loving modelling tools, and a means for our children to learn, grow and develop into beautiful people. But let’s face it. Parenting can be tough, and a huge responsibility.
What do you do if you think your child does not fit the regular mould of 'normal?' What is 'normal' these days anyway? It can be difficult, especially if you are first time parents, to know how your child is meant to act; when alarm bells should be going off, and whether your child is just ‘being a child.’
At the age of three, my son was diagnosed as being on the very broad autistic spectrum with a mild autistic disorder. My husband and I were told that it is very difficult to accurately diagnose at such a young age.
Some of his behavioural tendencies were:
Inability to cope with change.
Fastidious placement of objects - for example, certain toys or objects had to be in their particular place and lining things up.
Fixation on everyday things - simple things that we take for granted. For example, he had to see the whole duration of the opening and closing of a garage door.
Physical milestone delays.
Detachment from physical contact. Disengagement, and lack of eye contact with others.
Issues swallowing - vomiting after eating a meal.
Occasional self harm. For example, hitting his head against a wall.
And the list goes on.
Routine, routine, routine. That was our lifestyle. A number of his tendencies would surface when we went out to different places or there were large crowds. In public, his behaviour generally would resemble that of a very shy child attached to his mother. Because of this, he did not come across to others as having any issues; really just more of a mummy's boy.
Coping with having to accept that my son had a ‘label’ is one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life. Concerns flourished. What will his future be like? How will he be accepted into society? Do we need to look at different types of school? Should we have any more children? Is it my fault?
A very wise friend told me early on in the piece that, having a ‘label’ can be a good thing. It means that certain funding and additional help would become available for him, and to us as parents. In this type of situation; time is of the essence for your child. You have got to have an open mind and move past the fact that he/she has a ‘label.’
I promised myself that I would be patient and maintain focus on what can be done to help my son live as normal life as possible. With the appreciative help of those professionals whom we entrusted in our son’s care - including our paediatrician; local doctor; occupational therapists; speech therapists; physiotherapists and specialised early learning intervention pre-schools - our son has shown significant improvement.
Within a couple of years of his initial diagnosis, my son’s ‘label’ changed from being a mild autistic to having dyspraxia. Dyspraxia, I was told, often mirrors some of the behavioural tendencies of an autistic child. There are various types of dyspraxia, however to go through these here is beyond the scope of this article.
In my son’s case, my husband and I have come to call his tendencies ‘dyspraxia moments.’ These are still more evident when he is lacking in confidence or in a situation or environment that makes him feel uncomfortable. For him, the lack in confidence becomes like a communication block to his brain. He is unable to properly communicate with those around him, and sometimes loses his basic motor skills.
Now at the age of 10, my son is in a mainstream school. With the help of a special needs teacher employed at his school; my son’s school environment is tailored for him so that it is structured. He is trying hard to achieve his academic milestones, and he continues to show improvement. That being said, more independent work is required as he is getting further through school. My husband and I are very conscious to communicate with our son and his teachers about any concerns that may arise, and how we can aid his continued learning.
Socially, within his school environment, my son has been widely accepted. This is not only because of the school; but the children generally in his learning circles are beautiful, accepting children. A tribute to their parents. Also, at a parent level, my husband and I have been open with other parents about the issues faced by my son.
From a parent perspective, the professional help that my son was receiving was not all that played a role in his improvement. Fortunately, my husband and I we were blessed with having a good support base around us. Without the love, help and support of our family and friends; it is my strong heartfelt belief that my son would not be doing so well today. Because of their support, my husband and I were able to be better parents; by being more understanding, patient and persistent with his needs.