This week mumsnet launched a new campaign – This Is My Child. This Is My Child is a myth-busting and an awareness-raising campaign. It’s aim is to support parents of children with additional needs, inform everyone else, and open up a conversation about how we can all act to make life easier for everyone caring for children with additional needs. I fully support this campaign and really hope it gets the attention it needs.
This Is My Child
This is Ethan, our beautiful little boy. He may look ‘normal’ to you but he has an invisible disability. He has recently been diagnosed with autism. This is my child!
Autism is meant to be an invisible disability, and I do believe it is to people not close enough to see Ethan’s quirks but people that see them and start to watch him you can see what they are thinking.
Picture the scene. We have taken Ethan into the park and he is enjoying himself going up and down the slide. You may notice that he isn’t really talking to us but you might not think anything of that. You will see us watching his every move, not wanting to leave his side. Overprotective parents you may think, but the fact of the matter is Ethan has no fear. At any moment he may decide to jump from the highest point. This is because Ethan has no idea how to use his imagination and he has created a circuit going up and down the slide, if something or someone breaks that circuit he will then want that circuit to end.
If Ethan is having lots of fun he will start to run around and flap his hands, cute right? Lots of children get excited! To control this overload of emotions Ethan may then need to follow straight lines. This might be lines on the floor, or his favourite, a fence. This is when people really pay attention to us, you can see them thinking “What is that little boy doing?”. You can see concern on their faces. Sometimes if we are lucky we will receive a smile, a smile always comes from someone touched by autism, someone who understands.
At the moment we are lucky, Ethan is small for his age and his quirks can sometimes be passed off as cute. Will strangers find it cute when he is eight, ten, fifteen? They will see different, people are normally scared of different!
A big autism myth, and one that I was guilty of believing, is that children with autism hate noise, people, busy places and show no emotion. We believe Ethan is Hypo Sensitive this means he has dull senses and he loves noise and we are very lucky that we have been able to take him to lots of different places without it causing many issues. It also means that he may have a high pain threshold and we have ended up in A&E on quite a few occasions with a very poorly little boy.
He loves people and other children, he just doesn’t know how to play and communicate with them. He also loves to smile and we often have cuddles but they are on Ethan’s terms and and different from what you would call a ‘normal’ cuddle.
Being an autism parent is emotionally and physically draining. Not only to you have to get used to functioning on very little sleep, you have to learn how to communicate with your child in a very different way. You also learn from very early on that you have to fight for your child for everything they need, and this is where the invisible disability really comes into play. You have to prove how your child is affected by autism everyday, and it’s the worse feeling in the world listing your child’s faults over and over again.
This Is My Child