Autism is all around us!
“She’s not naughty enough to have Autism.” I heard this so many times when voicing my concerns about my daughter, Esme. It’s a common misconception about Autism and one that I’m so grateful I paid no attention to. Neither should you.
Esme was born at home in 2016. I went straight back to work following her birth whilst my partner stayed at home to care for our baby. Perhaps it was ‘mum’s intuition’, but I soon noticed things about our child that raised concerns for me. Our daughter was a happy baby, always smiling and giggling. She slept so well that I sometimes wondered what all the talk of sleepless nights was about.
However, when it came to interaction, I saw that Esme didn’t make eye contact, wouldn’t respond to the sound of my voice and that even her toys held no interest for her. Instead, she would be mesmerised by watching the same TV programme over and over again.
I doubted myself for a while. Esme was reaching her milestones apart from her verbal and nonverbal communication. Maybe I was seeing something that wasn’t there? I was a new mum, first time parent, emotional and hormonal. I tried to tell myself that I was worrying about nothing.
Not long after having Esme, we welcomed our son into the world. Again, I had a home birth and again there were no complications. Having my son confirmed that my concerns about our daughter were not my imagination. He was so very different to her and though I understood that all children are different, our second child needed so much more from me. He needed the interaction, eye contact, my voice to soothe him. He didn’t gravitate towards the TV and instead sought out his favourite toys to play with.
When Esme started attending nursery and was surrounded by her peers, the fact that my daughter was so different to the other children really hit home. She didn’t behave in the same way as the other children, in the way that was expected of her, and the nursery staff struggled to manage her behaviour.
Esme wasn’t naughty but she wasn’t going to interact with the staff or children and the more this was enforced, the more she would desperately need her own space and to do her own thing. This made identifying whether she had a learning delay, or another need almost impossible. It was a frustrating time for all of us, not least our daughter.
In 2018, the decision to move Esme to Little Stars Pre-school turned out to be life changing for us. Suddenly, we had help, advice and support which was just incredible. I will forever be grateful to the superb staff at this establishment. Thanks to their early intervention, Esme got her diagnosis of Autism at the age of 4 years and 5 months, even though a diagnosis can only be given from the age of 4 years.
As soon as Esme started at Little Stars, we had regular meetings about her progress and the staff made sure they involved everyone they knew that would be able to help our daughter. This is what led to being able to get funding for one-on-one help in the classroom. I was a new mum, and I didn’t have any experience of Autism.
I didn’t know any other mums of Autistic children and so I had absolutely no idea where to even start when it came to my daughter being assessed and help being given in the classroom. I can’t help but think that perhaps there are parents and children out there that haven’t been as lucky as we have in this respect.
It is because of the help that Esme received from Little Stars, that I believe in early intervention. I think that gaining the individual support needed for an Autistic child can be life changing for them and their family, as it was for us. I know that not everyone agrees with my view and that’s okay but for us, that support so early on in Esme’s life meant that we had a clear path for her and that we were surrounded by people who understood and wanted the best for our daughter.
This didn’t just impact her positively, it affected all of us in a good way. I’d love to see mainstream schoolteachers educated, parents supported in managing their child’s behaviour and children and adults being taught sign language. My daughter is incredible, intelligent, and talented just like every other Autistic child. We see this every day because of the early support she received. I would love to see every Autistic child receive the same support.
Currently, 1 in 160 people have Autism. This number is set to rise. Just because our children are that 1 in 160 doesn’t mean they don’t deserve an education or access to after school clubs. They are not the problem but in my opinion, the lack of understanding they face when in mainstream educational settings is what needs to be addressed.
It is so important to follow the process, fight for what you believe and get your child the help they deserve. It’s not about your child being labelled, it’s about getting them support to help their future. Unfortunately, this is not easy, but our Autistic children deserve a chance to shine. They are like shooting stars; they don’t come along as often as the other stars but when they do, they leave a trail of magic for all to see.
Next week is World Autism Awareness Week and I wanted to share our story to raise awareness. What could you be doing to raise awareness? Even sharing this blog with others will help.
With regards to getting a child a diagnosis and the right support, I have done my research and followed the process. If I can personally support anyone in getting help, getting a diagnosis, and fighting for their child, I will. If you feel you need to, please do contact me and I will be happy to do anything I can.