I’m wallowing today. C’mon in and join me in my mudbath of self-pity! Climb in, it’s lovely and warm in here, although you might find it a bit cloying after a while…
It’s looking like my ‘late developer’, ‘young for his years’ son has Asperger’s after all. To be fair, it’s not that much of a surprise. It’s something my sister first flagged up when he was 18 months old. (Oh yeah? What does she know? Well, unfortunately, she’s a speech therapist. Specialising in children with autism spectrum disorders. I know, I know – why couldn’t she just have worked in a pie shop?)
I know it’s self-indulgent to moan, because at the moment it’s fairly subtle, almost invisible to the outside world. What seven-year-old boy doesn’t bang on about Star Wars weaponry, hate writing, not know when to stop when play-fighting with an adult, complain his socks ‘hurt’, and have to be told 75 times to put his shoes on in the morning? It’s mostly apparent in the classroom; he stares blankly when the teacher is talking, as if the wind is whistling through his ears, and misses the simplest instructions. He reads like an adult but can barely put one sentence down on paper.
‘It’s mild,’ everyone says, and I know they’re looking to reassure me, and they’re quite right. He’s a ‘lil’ bit Aspie’, in the way you can be ‘a lil’ bit Country.’ Believe me, I am grateful for that. But – whisper it – because this is all relatively new, I’m not quite in the zone yet of ‘comparing’ him to other kids on the spectrum; I’m still clinging to ‘comparing’ him other ‘neurotypical’ children. (Parents who are struggling with children with severe ASD and other disorders, I will email you my address so you can come round and punch me really hard in the mouth.)
I guess it puts into context why I never felt that he ‘needed’ me as a baby. Why he used to sit for hours as a toddler spinning the wheels on his upturned pushchair, and was late to talk. Why he was 18 months old before he kissed me. Why I’ve often found him, to be frank, a bit of a struggle. (It also puts into context the behaviour of a few close relatives and the off-the-wall, inappropriate things they come out with. (‘How was the funeral?’ ‘Too hot.’))
But yes, it is subtle. So subtle that even I was shocked when he was doing the verbal tests with his speech therapist.
‘Tell me what you can about a house.’
‘It has four brick walls. It’s a cube shape, with a prism for a roof – the roof can be made of wood, or metal, or other materials…’
‘Tell me what you can about an orange.’
‘It’s spherical. It can be hard, or soft. It’s rough on the outside…’
No, son, it’s a fruit! A sodding fruit! He managed to explain 20 words without giving a single ‘big picture’ answer, or indeed a single emotional response or personal observation, like ‘I like oranges,’ ‘I live in a house.’
Being a glass-half-empty kind of person, I’ve already extrapolated into the future and had visions of him boring a girl into a coma with the exact specifications of the Bugatti Veyron. I’ve just got to do a mind-flip, now, and look at the many, many positives. He’s a lovely, polite boy, with beautiful grey-green eyes and a great sense of humour; he’s healthy, he’s happy and with a bit of ‘tweaking’ he’ll be just fine. Right, I’m going to climb out of the mudbath and have a refreshing cold shower. There’s still a bit of claggy self-pity clinging to me, so maybe I’ll get the pool boy to help. José! Hose me down!
DISCLAIMER: Just re-read my post and realised it would be horrifically insulting to any adult or teenager with ASD who happens to stumble across it. I’m leaving it ‘up here’ as it was an honest first reaction to all that has gone on, but I must learn to practise what I preach: I’m always telling friends that ASD is viewed very much as dyslexia was 20 years ago – as something to be collectively feared and marginalised. And that we need to try and have a better understanding and bring ASD into the mainstream. I am now going to get my cat o’nine tails and administer a sound self-thrashing. Think I’ll stick to sticking to blogging about biscuits from now on.