April was Autism awareness month, there was also Autism awareness day and Autism awareness week, all in April. A lot of awareness for Autism basically, but for this I am very grateful.
Autism is a very important part of my life. It has brought me moments of intense frustration and despondency. It has made me question my behaviours and who I am. It has taken me to some dark places. It has also helped me develop resilience which has helped me cope with other challenges that have been sent my way. It has helped me see the world from a different angle and it has given me a tiny window into what it must be like to live with the condition. I’m an Autism dad.
Stephen, my stepson came into my life when he was 3. Looking back there were signs that Stephen might be “on the spectrum”. He struggled with pre-school groups and nursery. He couldn’t follow simple instructions and most worringly, he had no fear! He quickly learnt how to climb onto the garage roof so he could jump onto the trampoline, he had a swing that he came very close to performing 360 degree stunts on, and trying to take him swimming was interesting! If we didn’t stop him he would be trying to jump off the diving board before he could swim 10 metres!
Ok – here’s the thing. I was going to use this blog to continue telling you about Stephen’s childhood but I can’t. I can tell you he’s doing ok. He goes to college part time, he gets about, he has an amazing brain. But the fact is, his childhood and school years were so difficult. I had started to write about them but I got upset and then angry. He’s been let down, very badly. We had to fight to get him the right support at school and then into the right school. Any autism parent will tell you finding the strength and energy to fight when there are days when you just can’t think straight, when putting one foot in front of the other takes so much out of you is hard. But from somewhere, I don’t know where, you find the strength. It’s not about wanting your child to be the same as all the other kids, it’s about wanting them to have the same opportunities, the same experiences and the same acceptance that other children have.
Stephen thinks differently, he behaves differently and he communicates differently, that’s all. It shouldn’t be up to Stephen and others like him to fit into our world we need to find the way to fit into his. There is no cure, no magic pill to stop Autism and I wouldn’t want there to be. There are some crazy theories out there about what “causes” Autism and what you could do or could take to reduce the risk of your child developing it. It’s very nearly always bollocks!! Autism isn’t a disease, it’s not contagious and if your child has Autism please don’t blame yourself, try to ignore the looks from other parents in the playground. You’ve done nothing wrong and nothing to be ashamed of or apologise for.
Wow, writing this has been harder than I imagined but it’s also been rewarding and I’ve been able to come to some conclusions. A bit like being an Autism dad!
If you have any questions or want to know where to go for further help, please contact me and i’ll try and point you in the right direction. x