Monthly Archives: March 2016

The laptop battle

It’s been a huge learning curve rethinking my son’s life through the eyes of a PDA diagnosis. He has not been diagnosed with PDA, but ticks every box. Oliver has never quite fitted the Aspergers child mould and never really changed his behaviour with any of the typical strategies.

I have decided from two weeks ago to not ask anything of my son, aside from the bear minimum. School isn’t working out for Oliver, and his days are numbered. I have been asked to come in as his ‘TA’ because no one else can mange him and the staff feel threatened by him. I think I’m almost there as protection in case he kicks off. Last week on dress up day one child in his class asked, ‘what have you dressed up as Oliver?’. Oliver ignored him; he was in his usual uniform. I went to answer the child as he didn’t ask in a mean way…he was just curious. I started to say ‘Oliver doesn’t like dressing up…’ but Oliver was already trying to cover my mouth to stop me from talking, in a very determined manner. It worked. It was them reported to the teacher that Oliver hit me in the mouth. I had to quickly dispel that. He was in school on a knife-edge anyhow. We are desperately trying to find a better resourced school for Oliver, hopefully to start in May.

I remember regularly trying to reward Oliver with computer time. If he didn’t behave he wouldn’t get the computer. Inevitably Oliver didn’t behave. The consequence being…he didn’t get the computer. His mood would then turn, and Oliver would throw furniture around, kick me, hit me and scream and shout. His brother and sister would disappear for fear of being attacked. He didn’t see any point of ‘being good’ because he wasn’t allowed his computer so he continued to disrupt everything and everyone. I hid his computer, I hid my computer, I hid anything that would, come back at me with, ‘…if I can’t have my computer, then you can’t have your phone, or laptop!’. He would argue for ages, and not leave me alone. I hid in the toilet. The only room in the house with a lock. Oliver got a coin and tried to unlock the door from the outside. There’s no let up.

The computer was the only thing that Oliver was concerned about. No television, not a problem. In fact there wasn’t anything else. Oliver didn’t have any friends to speak of. He didn’t want to go out and play. It was just his laptop. My only leverage.

Oh the drama we’ve had with that laptop. Taking Oliver’s computer away was like pulling his fingernails out. Impossible. However if you don’t mind a bit of pain…it was doable, but emotionally, mentally and physically draining. Eventually I realised it wasn’t EVER worth the battle.

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A parent’s advice about being different.

I planned to write about events in the past in the lead up to today, but every day brings new challenges. My son was chucked out of one school (after 11 days) at the beginning of this academic year, and tomorrow I’m anticipating a repeat scenario. Either he’ll have to leave at half term or they will refuse to take him for year 7 (I think that’s a given).

No point in worrying now…we’ll see what happens tomorrow…

Today I particularly wanted to share the amazingness of my son too.

It’s common to use the word normal and different in describing my amazing child.  I have used those words. In the first instance I thought them in my head about my child, then got quite offended when people said ‘will he ever be…normal?’ Over time, I’ve learnt to tolerate them but we all know there’s no normal out there. Sadly, it’s easier to bench mark children using these descriptions. Even Oliver uses these words about himself.

At age 7 ( year 3) Oliver had a sympathetic teacher who was very accommodating and constantly negotiated and renegotiated with him. She spent ages talking to him, nurturing him, and he felt secure and content in her class. Despite this Oliver still had his issues, kissing children in the playground, telling his peers they were wrong, struggling to understand imaginative work. Defacing homework, avoiding homework, losing homework. Oliver has successfully managed to do zero homework his whole school life (so far)…that is an impressive skill!

We didn’t pursue a diagnosis for Oliver. On a dress up day (that I had forgotten about) he was rigid with anxiety at all the strange different outfits people were wearing, and unable to go in to his class. I had already left and the SENCO saw him scared to enter the classroom, clearly stressed. She told me about her autistic brother and how Oliver was ‘typically autistic’ such is their nature. At the end of the meeting I said, ‘you do realise Oliver hasn’t got a diagnosis?’ ‘Oh, really? I didn’t realise that.’.  It was then we decided that if the school were treating our son as autistic we seriously needed to get a diagnosis.

Getting the diagnosis was surprisingly easy. The consultant had never before seen a teacher and parent get an identical score on the 3di. I love the way timings and numbers associated with Oliver seem to follow a pattern of preciseness. The nurse told Oliver to wait a minute whilst he called the consultant. Oliver started counting 1,2,3,…up to a minute. I was holding my breath. Please, please don’t be longer. I quickly said to Oliver, ‘it might be a little bit longer’…hoping he would allow for a little variation.

The consultant heard Oliver counting. This was good.  Oliver sat inappropriately close to the consultant (mainly because he wanted to see the computer screen), and Oliver was reading his report, enquiringly about what P and F meant. Perfect and Fantastic apparently. That pleased Oliver. It wasn’t long before he said yes he’s got Aspergers, gave us a sheet with ‘useful reading’ and ‘useful websites’. Bish, bash BOSH. Done. We walked out to the car park and suddenly we felt very emotional…but it was good. It was a relief, we had something tangible to work with and I felt empowered.

The next step was…do we tell him? I knew it would be easy to tell him when the time was right, I would just leave a book out, a page open, an article to read. Oliver picked up everything and read anything he could get his hands on. I discussed with his teacher that I would initiate this some time in the future to guide his curious mind towards understanding his diagnosis. But I needn’t have worried. By the following week, unprompted by me Oliver had diagnosed himself.

After reading this news paper article in First News Oliver went in to school and asked his teacher if he was ‘autistic’. She thoughtfully talked to him and they looked at some websites together about Autism and Aspergers. She didn’t realise I hadn’t instigated anything, so when at the end if the school day his class teacher spoke to me, it dawned on us he’d done it himself. Thank you First News!

Oliver and I talked some more at home. He was desperate for information and wanted to read all the books. If I could give any advice as a parent of an Autistic child to another parent. It would be: Please tell your child their diagnosis. The first thing Oliver said to me was ‘I knew I was different’. I was amazed that a child at age 7, recognised he was different. Shocking… goodness knows how confusing and damaging it would be to go in to teenage years or later life having always felt different.

So there we have it. Despite not wanting to use the word different…that is exactly how Oliver perceived himself. In such a brutally judgemental world,  Oliver found comfort in having an answer to why he felt different. It was without doubt the right thing to do. And he worked him it out for himself. I was, and am so proud of him.