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.