In this series we will be meeting some amazing families who have embraced their child and their autism wholeheartedly. They are passionate about spreading the word that being diagnosed with autism does not define your life. Although there are indeed challenges along the way – the positives out way the negatives in abundance.
I first met Kitty Black through as bloggers group that we are both a part of. I was instantly drawn to her sense of humour, her stories about the adventures she shares with her family, and the way in which she describes the joy of having a child on the autism spectrum. Kitty writes over at “Playing with fireworks” where you can read more of her hilarious and amazing blog entries.
Please introduce our readers to your amazing family-
Hi! Our family is myself, my husband, our son who is 5 and our daughter who is 3 in terms of age but 27 in terms of sass and shoes. We also have two black and white cats who strut around and sleep on things we would rather they didn’t sleep on, and a undetermined number of hermit crabs because they really don’t move that much and who really knows.
How old was your son when he was diagnosed with Autism?
He was officially diagnosed just after his fourth birthday. We had started the process a year before through public health system, then gotten tired and paid for a private assessment which was completed in three weeks. This still seems utterly ridiculous.
Many parents say they knew their child was Autistic – was this the case for you & how did you know?
We always knew something was different, I remember playing clapping games with him when he was 8 months and moving my head around to keep eye contact because he kept looking over my shoulder. We had so many concerns dismissed because it was still within the realm of ‘normal’ development. However in hindsight there were a lot of autistic behaviours we didn’t realise were autistic, so we didn’t bring them up. Things like his amazing memory, his policing of the ‘rules’ and his ability to mimic other people’s voices and actions; he would walk behind people in the street and copy their gait (this was actually super embarrassing if they turned around) and he’d say things using other people’s inflections and tone. Mainly we knew because the usual parenting techniques for raising a rambunctious 3yr old (which he was at the time) were spectacular failures. The most common piece of advice we were given pre-diagnosis for our concerns was ‘You should talk to him’ and we’d be like – ‘He hates that and he won’t talk.’
Can you share with us a bit about the way you dealt with the diagnosis?
We were so worried he wasn’t going to get the diagnosis, we felt it fit so perfectly and things had been making sense and then he’d have a typical child day and it would throw us. So when we got the piece of paper (actually the clinical psychologist whispered over his head to us ‘he’s definitely on the spectrum!’) we were relieved that we had finally been seeing him clearly after years of misinterpreting his behaviour and holding him to standards that he couldn’t possibly meet. I was scared of the future, there’s not much positive information out there, which is vastly misleading in terms of autistic people and happiness; but we tried to just concentrate on him, to see his successes and his strengths. A few days after the diagnosis we were watching horses in a field, I asked him to stay away from a fence that had broken and he said ‘It’s not broken Mummy, it’s clearly collapsed’ and that was like, he’s enough of a ratbag to be just fine.
How has Autism affected your life?
Honestly, in so many positive ways. It’s like this whole other world we were unaware of and I feel enriched by being a small part of it. As a person I am more compassionate, more understanding and patient. My husband and I have both realised how many traits we have and how of course when that’s combined at least one of our children would be autistic! My life will be slower than I anticipated because ultimately there is no-one else who can be there for my son like I can, so there are things on the back-burner; but there’s beauty in a slow life too. The people and the parents I’ve met who are autistic or are raising autistic children are some of the most passionate, dedicated and hilarious people, they rock. Oh, and there are far more meetings than I could ever have predicted. Ever. So many.
What are some things your son has taught you about the world?
That all you can be is yourself. If I try and push him into being and acting neurotypical then I lose him. I lose the bits of him that challenge me and make me grow, I lose the bits that make me a more accepting person. He doesn’t care that he’s autistic, he’s just going about his day and doing what he loves. I think that’s the best anyone can hope for really, just to be themselves. Plus I’ve learned a ridiculous amount about construction vehicles, trains and we are just getting started on sea creatures which is frankly a relief because construction sites are not very interesting and there are chips at the aquarium.
What advice would you give to other families who have a child with Autism?
Autistic is just a descriptive word to explain a type of neurology. It is not a death sentence, it is not a reason to make your child’s world small and it is definitely not the worst thing a person could be. There is also a vast difference between an autistic child and an autistic adult. Yes, you will need help, your child will need help but this doesn’t mean you or your child are less, it doesn’t make you any less valuable.
You can accept autism and the assistance a diagnosis brings and still kick ass. In fact you probably will.
Chaos to Calm Consultancy would like to acknowledge the Wurundjeri and Boon Wurung people of the Kulin Nation.We acknowledge the elders past, present and emerging - particularly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander parents who walked before us supporting and connecting their children to the earth, water and community. Always was. Always will be.