Dear autism, Once a year around diagnosis day, I like to take a comprehensive look at what we have accomplishedRead more
This guest blog post is by Michael Goodroe. Michael works full time as a data processor and serves as aRead more
Ask parents of children with special needs and you will hear very different stories of diagnosis day. They may rememberRead more
S was Diagnosed in 2003, when he was 3, with High functioning autism. Now he comes across as any otherRead more
Dear autism, Do you remember how we started this journey? Mournful eyes, furtive glances, and furious scribbling on notepadsRead more
What are the signs of autism in a toddler? As a parent, it may be difficult to determine what normalRead more
Autism is described as “triad of impairments” to do with social interaction, communication and imagination and the characteristics of autismRead more
When did you suspect your child had autism? I get that question all the time. At two weeks old, I was holding my daughter after feeding her. She looked up into my eyes. We maintained a gaze together, so engrossing that I felt myself lost in her. She was perfect and I felt such joy. […]Read more
Will I feel comfortable with Isaac being aware of this blog as and when he acquires the ability to?
The question (nuanced rather than in unreconstructed form) has therefore acted as a gentle leaver on the moral compass if you like. Not that it was needed at all in his early days. Chronicling them demanded a frank, exposing honesty such was our raggedness – with raging against society’s stares going hand in hand with amplifying autism’s awareness a matter of Isaac’s human rights. Intensity informed everything and I felt compelled to communicate all we learned. I wouldn’t change a smidgen.
As he approaches nine however, the question devolves from what I singularly (as a father) say about him to something more pluralistic. Maybe not a question, more a constant consideration that whatever I say needs a degree of respect and parity with his own opinions, profile and personality. How, if at all, will he feel, be aware of, love, hate, tolerate, tame, embrace, enforce, his autism. It’s his journey, my part must, as much as possible, be curated by – at least be in conjunction with – him.
“Willy Wonka’s got autism.”
Such is our real time – forever on and forever fruitful – relationship with school, they are always alert to little aberrations like this. Isaac probably didn’t have a knowledge of autism, some boys in his class may have. There was certainly no Charlie and the Chocolate Factory revelatory autism story though. A semblance of self-awareness was seeping into him. A healthy, in hand, observable occurrence that always happened to boys at Isaac’s school.
So much so that on the occasions I pick him up, I find myself in a jubilant state – flushed with the endorphins of expanded expectations; his jolly, sociable, developing self being clear to see. In fact the narrative right now is Isaac is nowhere near his glass ceiling and deserving of lofty ambitions.
Isaac is often in possession of a one rail-track mind. To stem it is to leave him ferociously frustrated, unfairly so. Equally, as championed by school, to dwell on the obsessions, means they fester, he gets entrapped in them.
He’s taken to – “as a way to relax after school, daddy, I need to write about transport” – typing the entire tube map completely from memory; effortlessly, at break neck speed. All the stops, their intersections listed, in perfect order; of all the lines; north, south, east and westbound. It’s a preposterous skill really. Mindboggling in its depth and dimensions. His photographic memory transposing the visual into perfect verbal form.
So how to harness this passion that can be on the precipice of pointlessness?
In this case, success has been achieved by introducing some social skills. His octogenarian grandfather, Papa Paul, is an enthusiastic, kindly man, whose interests and generosity are varied. One of which, trains of all shapes and sizes and vintage, is something I, in a previous less informed, less responsible life, gently ribbed him about. Now I strongly reinforce it, aware as I am its vital purpose as a social tool.
This marshalling of an obsession into something positive and social, is one of many small but significant steps Isaac is making. Repetition is different from routine. He’ll always thrive from and need routine. So a regular collection from school incentivised with train stimulation is a wholly positive development.
Reward of friendship is wayward with Isaac – the innate skills of reading body language are invisible, regulating himself from cavorting, physical play is a fierce challenge, reciprocation is not part of his natural make-up. Perhaps all this goes hand in hand with the esoteric concept of social currency; something so yearned for in typical children, appearing of limited value to his self-confidence. Yet we do have some foundations in place that could start to paint the broad brushstrokes of potential. Music, he loves; cataloguing and remembering in the main. Any playlist on popular radio he knows in full, “this song we’ve heard already, sometimes you hear things more than once,” I hear a lot on a long journey, DJs’ propensities to play songs over and over, a lack of imagination irritating Isaac slightly. His knowledge, I know, could stand him in prime social pecking order, in time, “this is Hair by Little Mix featuring Sean Paul – I’ve seen it on music television and am listening now to Capital Radio Extra.”