Autism seems to be making it’s way into a lot of news stories lately, it features quite often on Loose Women, This Morning and various daytime TV as well as big brands signing up to ‘Autism Hour’.
The point of all of this is to ‘raise awareness’. I personally hate the term ‘raise awareness’. I generally find that people are either already aware or unaware and ignorant/ it has no place in their life so why bother?
Admittedly, I was ignorant to autism prior to having Ollie. There is nothing wrong with this because it didn’t affect my life. I was also ignorant to miscarriage prior to having miscarriages, again not a problem. Breastfeeding, had ill-informed opinions prior to breast-feeding. Again, all fine. We don’t have to educate ourselves on everything that exists and everything that might impact on somebody. It’s just ridiculous.
However, if we are not willing to educate ourselves on subjects that mean nothing to us (rightfully so) then we need to accept that we have ill-informed opinions on those subjects and are in no position to judge and get into Facebook rants about things we’re ignorant to.
So I personally think this term ‘raise awareness’ should be ‘raise support’ and basically if you’re not aware and have no need to be, just be nice and supportive to those that are aware of it.
The only situation where awareness is a good thing is for parents who feel there might be something different about their child and would like to be more aware of what to look out for in order to get a diagnosis.
Latest figures suggest there are around 700,000 autistic people in the UK so realistically the majority of parents do not need to be aware of the signs. But the majority can be supportive of those parents and children.
So I thought I’d write about some signs that are probably seen as nothing, not a big deal but actually are a big sign that your child has autism.
Most people will say if your child has autism they will walk on their tip-toes and line things up. Yes this is correct. But you’ve got to look at the context and not jump to conclusions. My nephew used to line cars up, this was traffic and made perfect sense. No cause for concern.
My Ollie however, lines coins up – all heads up. Or lines trains up in order or the colours of the rainbow. The difference between the two? Social. My nephew understood that function and purpose of cars and how that would be adapted into a game. Ollie doesn’t understand that coins aren’t toys.
Walking on tip-toes, I personally think this is a sensory element. I think autistic children don’t like the feel of the carpet or floor and so raise onto their tiptoes to eliminate the contact. Ollie did this a lot and my family used to say is it because we do ballet. You might try and talk yourself out of this being a sign by saying you do ballet, dancing, whatever but ask yourself realistically, do you walk around the house on tip-toes 24/7 and even if you do why has your child chosen to copy this? Why not copy their other parent or siblings or anyone else?
Not so common signs.
A big thing for me that made me know Ollie was different is the fact that he has never watched a film. He is 4 and 3 months and he has never in his life watched a film. When my nephew was 4 I could take him to the cinema (he cried at G-Force – awww!)
Again what is the difference? People will ignorantly say… attention span! This is not true at all, if anything children with autism have a much better attention span. This is people getting confused with ADHD. The difference is social. Ollie doesn’t read the social situation of, sssshh we’re watching a film sit down and be quiet. He’d just get up and walk off in a cinema.
Ollie also doesn’t really read books. He likes activity books with flaps, touch and feel, stickers etc but he does not get into a story. Again people assume this is attention but it isn’t, it is social again. It’s not understanding the situation of lying in bed and chilling with a story. Or the social compliance of sitting with the other children on the mat at school.
Another thing to note is that autistic children do not understand abstract concepts, so imagination stories really don’t work for them. They need visual aids which is why something like ‘Dear Zoo’ or “That’s not my…’ books are good for Ollie.
It is common for parents of autistic children to be in denial by calling they’re children ‘too clever’ to have autism. First of all it is so ignorant because you’re basically saying that autistic children are dumb. Which is not true at all, they often fixate on specific things and become little experts. Ollie can count to 100, backwards in 2’s and countdown backwards from 20. He can do basic algebra and add and subtract. He is a little maths genius because his ‘autism thing’ is numbers.
Most autistic people will have an obsession. This is basically how they make sense of the world. If Ollie walks into a room he sees numbers. He sees numbers that I can’t see but I always trust that the number is there and then I’ll say oh yeh, and spot a poster or something that he zoned in on.
Having Ted now, I can see that there were signs of autism in Ollie very early on. Can your child point? You will tell yourself yes because or some reason you don’t want an autistic child. Mothers are constantly lying to theirselves because they don’t want a ‘stigma’. The only stigma is the ignorance! Not pointing is a big sign, Ollie used to make noises at things he wanted so it’s easy to tell yourself it’s pointing because you understand. Ted very clearly has a little finger in the direction of what he wants.
Does your child talk or babble? Again you’ll say yes. You’ll post online about their ‘new words’ but do they talk? By 15 months I could have a conversation with Ted, he’d answer and point and gesture. With Ollie he was probably 3 before I could have a two way chat with him.
Many parents will claim that their child can’t possibly be autistic because they’re too clever because they know where everything is kept and will climb up on the cupboards and get what they need to make breakfast and do the toast and butter the bread etc.
This is a massive sign of autism again why? Social! It is normal for young children to develop knowing that mommy and daddy do stuff for them. Ted will point and the door and say ‘milk’ or ‘my hand’ and he knows that I get the milk for him.
Ollie will get the little table, put a stool on top, climb up, unlock the door, go in the kitchen, get the table into the kitchen, climb up, get a cup, jump down and then pour the milk in. This is because he hasn’t got the social development that Ted has got.
Ultimately, it’s not really an issue. It’s a difference. I will have to post another day about why I’m firmly against autism being labelled a disability because it’s not, it’s a difference. The milk scenario is a perfect example. Ollie isn’t disabled by autism, in fact I’d argue he’s often enabled by autism.
It is a difference in development, not a disabling development.
Autism, is a social disorder if anything. All of the signs point to children not having social awareness and not being able to read a situation. This doesn’t have to debilitate life, you just need to understand and stop caring what other people think!
A lot of people will justify their child’s behaviour by saying ‘terrible twos’ I honestly think that’s a bullshit saying as well, it’s so dismissive of their little feelings. Tantrums are a frustrated child that cannot communicate with you, if these are happening a lot, maybe it’s a sign of a communication delay which is a sign of autism.
Don’t be ignorant. Don’t be ashamed.
Trust your instincts.
There is nothing ‘wrong’ with your child, they are just different!