Today is World Autism Awareness Day.
My awareness to what autism is was thrust upon me nearly three years ago, along with Max’s diagnosis. And since then, I’ve learned more than I ever thought I’d need to about it.
For the basics of autism, you can go to the National Autistic Society’s info about it.
I’m not here today to regurgitate all the official information.
I’m here to explain to you what autism means for my son, Max, who is considered severely autistic, his older brother who is what we autie parents call neurotypical (i.e. with genetics and synapses firing at the statistical norm, for lack of another way of putting it), and me, his mama, carer, and number one fan.
Max has always been different.
He screamed *all* the time as a baby. But it wasn’t colic.
Now, as I look back, I recognise the signs of being in total sensory overwhelm.
Max is particularly sensitive to sound, certain touches, and bright lights.
He hates sunny days unless he has sunglasses on.
On the other hand, when he needs to calm down, he needs to overstimulate his touch and proprioception, to the point that he will throw himself around at the furniture. It’s like he needs to thwack his hands onto his jaw and head really hard just to know he’s there.
These days the act of hitting himself and throwing himself at furniture/toys/me is usually when he’s upset, melting down, seeing red. It’s his way of trying to calm himself down. Like when you’re absolutely SICK to the back teeth of the works going on outside your home for the last month and have to blast your music really loud just to drown it out. Mostly so you won’t end up going out there and screaming at them to just bugger off so you can think.
That’s how I interpret it anyway.
And that’s Max’s other main difficulty.
He’s 5 and a half years old, and non-verbal.
We use visuals called the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to communicate with each other.
I can set up routines to show what’s coming next, and he uses them to have to ask (and attempt to verbalise) for what he’d like.
This is a HUGE step forward from him having to point and me guess what it is he’s asking for, let me tell you!
In fact, over the last two months since we’ve fully integrated the PECS at home as well as nursery, the difference in Max has been amazing.
You know he finally called me “Ummy” IN CONTEXT the other weekend for the first time ever?
Yes, the FIRST TIME.
It took 5 years and nearly 6 months for me to hear my baby boy call my name.
And oh my I did cry, I can tell you that!
You see, it’s all these little things that are the most wonderful breakthroughs.
The things that I took for granted with Zack are the same things that Max can find really difficult.
So this month, Autism Awareness Month, I’m going to spend some time explaining all about how Max’s autism affects us.
And hopefully you out there, will learn a bit more about a disability that’s hidden, until you meet the person it affects!