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.

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