Monthly Archives: February 2016

Did the world fall apart?

The short answer is ‘no’.

Really? I was upset, but not that my son might be autistic. No. I had conflicting emotions of sadness, but also hugely relieved.

Sadness because he was different. Relief, because I knew he was different. Ironic really. The acknowledgement from someone else gave me the reassurance I craved, as I felt like I was going slightly crazy. I had thought his problems were due to my parenting, and I couldn’t work out what I was doing wrong. His behaviour was conflicting and unpredictable, so I was baffled most of the time.

I decided I didn’t want Oliver to have a label. Ever. I had a label when I was younger, and it scarred me for life. I knew first hand what it was like to be ‘different’, and I hated it.

So we continued, onwards, in the knowledge Oliver was different, but not obviously so, we thought. Yes he had his paddies, that did go on for hours, yes he was completely draining of my energy, but it wasn’t anything major, he’s just ‘slightly autistic’, we said.

Oliver had a sister 2 years younger who absolutely idolised him. They used to play together nicely. I realise now, his sister had learnt how to behave; Oliver was in control. She was desperate for his attention so would do exactly what she was told, without question. They were very close and I was pleased they seemed to genuinely love each other. Next came a younger brother. It wasn’t quite planned, but a happy accident. Oliver and Tommy have a love hate relationship. Tommy physically recoils when he sees Oliver have a paddy, which is inevitably directed at me, and always comes to comfort me afterwards. He’s my cuddle monster. Tommy is very wary in Oliver’s presence, and he too has learnt to tread very carefully around his older brother.  His sister, bless her, used to stick up for herself, and always came off worse. She still does now, but with less conviction; the repercussions can be very painful.

I look back now and I can identify; eye contact (tick), some empathy (tick), he was very loving, and happy (tick, tick). But then he would flip, completely, entirely, unpredictably. I always said Oliver had a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ character to anyone and everyone.

In January 2012 I read the PDA information on the NAS website … 4 years ago.

Yes…I was reading about my son; Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde! It rang alarm bells then, but for some reason I dismissed it. Oliver didn’t do role play…he hated dressing up. Oliver didn’t have any language delay…he was reading children’s encyclopaedias at age 7. It wasn’t quite him, as we thought  he had Aspergers (because he was great at maths!). How could Oliver be both?

I read the article one day, and had forgotten it by the following week.

The long answer is the world didn’t fall apart, but our family life was hard or one could say ‘very challenging’. Everybody, even extended family, was effected in many different ways. We didn’t realise how this tornado at the epicentre of our family had pick us all up and we were defenceless to its power. We all revolved around one individual and we were beginning to realise this wasn’t normal.

It took a long time to accept our different world, was in fact our normal world. Even today.



Looking back


Yesterday I realised it’s not me. It’s not my fault. But best of all, it’s not HIS fault.

My son is 11. 11years 2months and 9days old, to be precise, because he would like that. Oliver was a beautiful happy, contented child. Just adorable. He giggled and smiled all the time. I only have memories of a mouth of gums smiling back at me with his eyes locked on to mine. It filled with joy when people said ‘He’s only got eyes for his mother’.

He arrived on his due date. Very precise. He slept through by 3 months, though it was completely led by him. He started blinking, rubbing his ears, and then a yawn would indicate to me he was tired. By the time I was halfway up the stairs he had nestled in my shoulder sucking his fingers. Was I smug? I don’t think so, because it was all so new, I knew no different.

And that was my downfall…I didn’t know any different. He was my first, but although he was happy, slept brilliantly, interacted, he was VERY demanding. Maybe I look back and think that, but he never sat still. I was told ‘That’s because he’s a boy, of course’. Of course! Boys can be demanding, and I can certainly attribute the first 12-18 months to that, but by 2years I kept wondering why is this such hard work? Small things like shoes, and clothes were an issue. He wouldn’t wear certain clothes; jeans, wooden jumpers, any layers. He would rather not wear a coat at all. But that’s normal I was told, and I think that can be true. He would only eat breakfast out of the same bowl. A small plastic bowl with the ants around the edge and the shallow monkey spoon. He only stopped at 10 and half because we moved house, and we had new crockery for everything. I discretely slipped the faded plastic bowl, and spoon into the loft.

But the main problem was physically getting out of the door. Sometimes it was impossible, but I certainly wasn’t going to be dictated to by a toddler. By then I had another baby girl to look after. On one occasion my friends were having a picnic just the other side of my house, with their children playing happily together nearby. He refused point blank and would throw shoes, take off clothes, scream, cry. I really wanted to get out, see my friends, and I know he would enjoy it…maybe…eventually?

I did…I forced him out. Every time. It fills me with guilt now. I marched him out the door, shoes on or not, to play dates, preschool, car trips. I mean not every time, because he wasn’t like that every time. Sometimes he cooperated brilliantly but that was always a surprise and it would totally confuse me. What was different about today?

What got to me was everybody said his behaviour was normal and their son, daughter, baby did that. Yes, but I  wondered whether their child did all the tantrums together, ALL the time. The toast not cut in the right shape. Rectangles, not squares or triangles, The drink up to the line on the breaker. The same place at the table, same chair, same crockery, and nobody near his space. The same toy, and same t-shirt and trousers. I know, this doesn’t sound out of the ordinary, but he was very ‘ritualistic’ as my mother in law once put it. Then, in her next breath, ‘…his father was a bit like that’. Oh ok, and he’s turned out alright, so yeah, this is normal.

But did their children throw the shoes, throw the toast, cry, scream, jumping up and down in a fury that consumed his whole being. We called them ‘paddies’. Oliver was having a paddy. The same as a tantrum really, so quite normal.

By three and a half and at preschool, Oliver was obsessed with patterns, copied sentences from a poster on the wall, at a desk the other side of the room. He could do simple sums, he loved maths. Wow, what a clever boy. However, he did have his paddies. Somebody would interrupt his pattern, and take the hoop or spoil his pyramid of bricks. I joked with the preschool teacher…’ha ha…well, he’s probably a bit autistic!’. She didn’t joke when she looked me in the eye and said kindly, ‘well…actually…maybe it’s something you should think about, it occurred to me too’.

I don’t actually remember her exact words, but I remember her look, I remember where I was standing. I know there were people around me.

The bottom fell out of my world and I walked home crying my eyes out.

That was severn and a half years ago, and this is a diary of events that gripped our family.