April is Autism Awareness Month and to mark the occasion I thought I would finally publish this blog post that has been sat in my drafts for months now…
As most of you will know, my son Max was diagnosed with ASD back in February 2016, so over three years ago now. We are still learning every day and are by no means experts when it comes to autism, but I think we’ve learnt an awful lot since those early day.
So here’s 10 things that I’ve learned since my son was diagnosed with autism…
1. A diagnosis doesn’t make things easier
I thought that a diagnosis would magically make our lives easier and the truth is, it hasn’t. We haven’t really had any help or support since his diagnosis, it’s as though they thought he wasn’t ‘autistic enough’ to need it. I am pleased that we have the diagnosis for school though, they are great with him and I’m glad that they can support him and understand his behaviour better.
2. Autism isn’t one size fits all
The autism spectrum is so vast, no two people are the same. Max sits at the asperger’s end of the spectrum but that doesn’t mean that he is the same as another person with asperger’s. The stereotypical autism traits that we think of aren’t always the same for everyone. For example, despite what people would assume, Max is actually pretty sociable and has lots of friends.
3. People don’t like to talk about it
I’ve found that people really don’t like to talk about autism and will often try to avoid the subject. If I ever get into a conversation with someone about Max and autism, they won’t ask questions. I think it just comes down to the fact that people don’t know enough about it and are worried they will offend. But I think we should talk about it more, the more we talk, the more people will understand and accept autism.
4. Each age presents new challenges
As with neurotypical kids, every age offers up different challenges. When Max was younger, although he could talk, he often got very frustrated and struggled to communicate with us. We don’t have this problem now but there are new obstacles cropping up all the time as he gets older. At the moment he obsesses over a game on his ipad. All kids play computer games but because of his autism, Max gets so completely obsessed with it that it can start to take over his life.
5. He absolutely can make friends
As I mentioned earlier, Max is actually pretty sociable and makes friends easily. One autism trait that most people are aware of is that people on the spectrum struggle in social situations but this isn’t always the case. Max can and does make friends and has a lovely friendship group at school at the moment.
6. Planning and routine is key
With a child on the spectrum routine is SO important and I definitely didn’t fully appreciate this when Max was first diagnosed. Now we find that as long as Max knows how the day is going to go, he is so much happier and more relaxed. If we spring things on him last minute, we can expect a meltdown.
7. It can affect your life in ways you never expected
When Max was first diagnosed I knew that autism would affect our lives, but I had no idea just how much. It has a knock on affect to everyone in the family and shapes everything that we do. The arguments that are caused, the behaviours that his younger sister copies, changes in routines and the emotions that a tough day can stir up.
8. Picking your battles is harder than you’d think
As much as I don’t want this post to come across negatively, I also want to be honest. The truth is, some days with Max are a constant battle. It’s easy to say ‘pick your battles’, but what if absolutely everything is a battle?
Thankfully, days like this don’t happen too often and I have to remind myself that tomorrow is a new, hopefully easier day.
9. I CAN do this
There have been so many days where I’ve thought that I just can’t do this anymore. I’ve felt like running away from it all, especially in those early days. But it does get easier. Or maybe easier isn’t the right word, I think it’s just that it becomes normal life, and of course it’s still tough but you learn to cope.
10. Autism can be amazing
I want to finish this post on a positive note because autism absolutely isn’t all bad! I did struggle to see the positives when Max was first diagnosed but now I realise that Max wouldn’t be who he is if he wasn’t on the autism spectrum. Asperger’s makes my clever, curious, imaginative boy who he is and I can’t wait to watch the wonderful things that he will do.
Thank you for reading.