This week Imp had an appointment with a local paediatrician, speech therapist, a trainee speech therapist and a representative of the local special needs charity. He was taken off for just over an hour by the speech therapist and her student. In the meantime Mr T and I were interviewed by the doctor. There were a whole host of questions, some based on the previous interview which took place in May last year and some that were specific to his recent behaviour and his daily routines. We talked about his friends, his school, his way of conducting himself at home, school and out and about. The appointment itself was only an hour but seemed a lot longer, it was intense and directed. Imp was later returning to us and was fidgety. After the doctors had time to discuss him and look over school reports we were called back in and were given his formal diagnosis. Autism Spectrum Condition (still known as ASD my most but in some areas the word disorder is being substituted for condition!)
Whilst the diagnosis itself wasn’t a huge surprise as we had been told at his previous appointment this was likely to be the case it is final, in the sense that he is now discharged from that clinic, those specialists are satisfied that he has Autism, albeit mild. They send a report to us, the Gp and his school and unless we need further social services report we just get on with it. School have to date been supportive but I know that now he has a formal diagnosis we may have to get him to attend some extra groups aimed at helping him understand social cues and explore his own emotions. I have had a couple of days to process and am now looking at ways of helping him cope with the things he currently struggles with.
As he is not good at talking about or recognising feelings in himself and others we will have to do some work on this. We have had a family chat today. Imp jotted down some things that make him happy, sad and worried as well as some of the things he thinks he does when he is feeling these things. We are hoping that by sharing these with Pixie and Hpops we can all recognise if a meltdown is approaching, if he needs to have some ‘alone’ time or if he is just happy. It helped them to ask questions of us and Imp to better understand him, and we have all agreed that it would be a good idea to attend a family session at a local special needs charity.
In some ways it is useful to have it all formally assessed, we know what we are dealing with and we can put in place some strategies to help, but we could do that anyway! For him it was important to know. He has begun to feel he is a bit different and to know that he has a recognisable condition that, with help, he can manage is helpful to him. The key thing for us is to ensure that none of the children see autism as a purely negative thing! Just the word often comes with connotations drawn from the media of extreme characters. You can’t tell by looking at Imp that he has autism, in fact for a lot of the time he seems either slightly excited or slightly grumpy, maybe a bit belligerent! For many his excitement which he struggles to control or his shouting out and so on look like bad behaviour. For me I have to learn to ignore the looks and comments of others who judge by appearances. If anything I have learnt to be more tolerant and understanding of others, maybe there is a reason that child is screaming.
One incident last year comes to mind, a routine visit to the dentist for a check up followed by painting on some veneer to protect teeth resulted in a screaming, crying meltdown battle lasting over half an hour! Despite is not tasting of much, no injection and so on Imp just couldn’t tolerate it, he wants to try again to his credit and we know he will have to be in the chair first otherwise we are likely to have a repeat performance. This incident could be judged as him being difficult, awkward or naughty but for him, someone in his personal space putting something in his mouth was just impossible. Loud noises, strong smells all have the same effect. Certain foods and sauces are now allowed to touch, he doesn’t want a dividing plate because he is too grown up but a suggestion given to us at his appointment was to use a ramekin – so far so good! We are also making him a do not disturb sign for his door so that when he retreats to his room for alone time no-one interrupts for half an hour. That way if he is feeling stressed it gives him time to calm down. We can also use music as a diversion or drama but we are still learning!
We are not viewing this as a negative thing, indeed it is a part of what makes Imp Imp! I am not saying it is easy or fun and that I am not struggling with the fact that I have to teach him a lot more and prepare myself for worse tantrums and struggles ahead, but having talked as a family today and having an open dialogue has convinced me we can move forward. Of course there are some knock on effects. As his behaviour can be unpredictable school holidays need to be planned for Imp. Spontaneity is a no no for him so I will be ensuring that much of his time has a schedule! Indeed he says timetables make him happy, they are comfy! If he is happy the rest of us are likely to be happy too, there will still be the worry that something will happen while we are out, indeed this is now of the things the girls are worried about. I have to acknowledge it could happen, and if it does and he has a public meltdown then we have to deal with it and find somewhere quiet for him to calm down! Now we know for sure we can’t live the what if life, we have to be the when this happens we…
I managed to work full time in school last half term and did, for the main enjoy it. I was obviously more tired but fulfilled but with Imp now diagnosed I will need to ensure that any return to work dovetails my school holidays with his. This can be difficult so my choices are limited but at the moment I am still planning on doing my SENCO award, hopefully starting the year, then, by the time Pixie graduated to senior school I will be qualified. Many SENCO jobs are part time so might be more workable with Mr T working from home if there are a few days where I am at work and they are not at school. Whilst gaining my qualification I can work supply meaning if I am needed for the children I can be with them.
We did have some excitement this week when we finally got the delivery of our new bedroom furniture, we have wanted to replace our bed and mattress for a few years now, but now we have! Well in a way, the issue was that the bed and chest of drawers and so on were ready but the mattress wasn’t. This is OK other than the fact that the bed we now have is bigger, so the old mattress is now awkwardly placed and there is the content feeling of being in danger of falling off – hopefully the new mattress will be delivered in the next few days. I managed to order new bedding in the sale but can’t use it until it comes!
The yellow pup now seems to have found his paws, he is very confident and not at all worried about invading your personal space or making his feelings known. He and B have become good friends which gives our old lady time to snooze. while they chase each other around like lunatics! Next month Pixie turns 10 which seems like big number all of a sudden, Mr T will be doing a tandem parachute jump and Hoops will be going on two school trips! Life doesn’t wait around so we will just have to keep running to keep up!