Since the release of David’s Gift last year, and I have come across many families who are traveling very similar Autism and Asperger’s syndrome journey’s. I just love hearing their stories, and I know that in hearing others’ stories we can learn so much from them.
This week, I am commencing a special ‘guest blogger’ spot, where I will feature an article from a reader who maybe a parent, a teacher or somebody who is working in the field of Autism and Asperger’s syndrome.
I have asked one of my regular contributors to the David’s Gift Facebook page, Fiona Bray to write a little about her experiences.
Fiona has been married to her husband Kym for almost 18 years. They have two sons, Aaron who is currently studying in Year 12, and Kolby who is 12 and was diagnosed with Asperger’s four years ago. Fiona has rheumatoid arthritis and so in order to take care of her health and spend time with Kolby, she is now a full time mum. Currently she is helping another dad, Andrew Burston, who has a child diagnosed with Autism and has developed an online support network for families in the Mt Gambier and Eastern South Australia area.
I hope you enjoy reading Fiona’s story.
How times have ChangedFiona Bray, March 2011
I remember clearly the first time I finally had the courage to join a local parent carer’s support group.
I had circled the block twice, trying to get up the courage to finally walk in. At the time the support group was for parents who had children with a variety of special needs- but it turned out that most of the group was made up of parents with children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Our son had only been diagnosed a few months before, and I felt like I was drowning… Leading up to his diagnosis people couldn’t help but give us their opinions- whether we wanted to hear it or not.. ‘just leave him with me for a week, I’ll sort him out’, ‘he didn’t behave like that at my house’ and ‘he only acts up when you’re around! But the statement that hurt the most when we first mentioned to close friends and family that it was suspected he might have Asperger’s Syndrome was ‘he doesn’t have Autism, you just spoil him and give in to him all the time’. At the time I didn’t even know what Asperger’s and ‘Autism Spectrum Disorder’ was, so that particular statement really upset me.
So finally after two previous meetings where I pulled up and then lost my nerve and didn’t even get out of the car, I finally went in. I will have to say it was the best thing I did. After, when I walked out for the first time since we started on this roller coaster ride called Asperger’s, I finally didn’t feel totally alone. I discovered there were other parents out there just like us, with kids just like ours. I looked at those more ’experienced’ mums almost in awe. They seemed to understand what Asperger’s and Autism was and how to get through to their kids in ways I hadn’t thought of. I came home with ideas and a new feeling of confidence, that maybe I could do this after all. And so began the journey to educate ourselves (boy ― have I read some books over the years). We have surrounded ourselves with friends and family who know and understand Asperger’s and Autism, and I finally had the confidence to no longer stand for the way our son was being treated at his school (unfortunately not only by other students, but more often than not by the teachers-he was labeled as a trouble maker and in need of anger management- even though by this stage he was the victim of bullying on a regular basis).
It’s now four years later…it feels like so much longer! Since then we have changed schools, and fortunately he is no longer treated like a trouble maker – they have taken their time to get to know him and he hasn’t looked back. We have gone through OT, speech and academic assessments and therapies and are now starting down the road with a psychologist to help with puberty and self help skills now that he is on the brink of the dreaded teenage years.
It has been a long and bumpy ride, but so worth it to see him (and us!) change and grow- and more importantly we have learned to accept him for who he is and understand him in ways we didn’t think were possible.
It’s funny now when I go to our support groups and I am sometimes seen as one of the ‘experienced’ mum’s. Our son is only 12, so we have a lot further to go on our journey yet, so I am in no way an expert! I think the biggest difference between me now and then- I now realise you may never have all of the answers, you are always learning, but I now know that’s OK too.