When my eldest was small, we noticed a few things that were developmentally different. Having no other child to compare to, it was quite tricky to distinguish whether his behaviours were due to his age or in fact because he was on the spectrum. We made a few comments here and there to gauge other people’s opinions, but generally people were a little dismissive and suggested it was typical one or two year old behaviour. At this point we decided to keep our observations to ourselves.
I can’t remember exactly which behaviours triggered our suspicions, but I will explore what to look out for in another post.
By two and a half, it was very clear to us that he was on the spectrum. Some family and friends had started to notice a few quirks, but some were still very dismissive, claiming that we as parents were seeing things that weren’t there or that we were somehow responsible.
By the age of three it was very apparent and by the age of four, well, I think anybody who spends any significant time with him can see very clearly that he is different.
As a parent of a child with seemingly invisible needs, it can get a bit lonely. Other people are not with your children 24/7 so only see a snapshot.
The worst thing is when people keep telling you they’ll grow out of it!
Or when they confuse ‘being good or bad’ with their behavioural difficulties.
I try to explain that the children are actually ‘good’ in general…they don’t tend to go out of their way to be naughty (unless they are tired or grumpy…which I think can probably be said of any child).
As I’ve said before, we have clear routines and expectations so they know how to behave. I am also complimented all the time on how polite they are. However…when something triggers them, all of this goes out of the window. I’ve instilled manners and good behaviour, so I know that as they grow and learn to self regulate, what I have put in will be clearer to others.
At the moment, confusion, compulsion, overload, the inability to self regulate, along with so many other things, takes over. In the moment, they cannot use their words or access the tools I’ve taught them. At some point, they will, and hopefully at that point life will get a bit easier for all of us.
As an example, yesterday my youngest had two meltdowns. One was because daddy went to work. This lasted for around an hour until suddenly it just stopped! The second one was because I had run out of Peppa Pig nappies and had to use a plain one. No matter what I said or did, his fixation on these issues could not be distracted.
My eldest, over the weekend, had a huge meltdown on our family day out. To keep him safe, I had to pick him up and remove him from where he had collapsed and gone dead weight. In other instances where I’ve had to hold or restrain him, I always try to position him downwards, so that he can’t kick or hit me. Sadly, on this occasion I could not do this and he repeatedly hit me in the face. I had glasses on and the impact of those against my skin caused bruising across my nose and cheekbone.
It was utterly embarrassing and I felt very tearful.
I don’t know if it was obvious to the other parents around us that this was indeed a full on meltdown, but everybody seemed to fall silent as it happened.
I always knew there was something different about him, but I could never have imagined just how prominent these differences would become as he grew, and what challenges this would pose to us as a family.
It’s hard when other people don’t believe or support you, but you are the expert on your child so learn to block them out (and that is tough when they are labelling your child naughty or a brat) and trust your instincts.
You are your child’s champion…they won’t get through this successfully without you!