I had to accept that my son Cameron would never just 'get it', never just 'simply understand', every milestone that typical children accomplish would be delayed or absent all together.
Will he be able to?
This was a question I was asked a lot in the early days; whether it be followed by...attend school?...cope in mainstream school?...grow out of it? (I even took to the Internet in the early days to ask this myself) And always my answer, '...I don’t know!'.
At this point you see the confusion on people’s faces; you immediately go on the defensive, it’s not like I have not asked these questions of the professionals; please don’t think that I have not spent hours researching for the answers online.
No one knows…no one.
You see the autism spectrum is so vast and so unique in each person that unless the NHS are suddenly able to equip Doctors with a crystal ball, then no we don’t know and we will just have to wait and see.
May I just add this is a pragmatist’s nightmare!
I never forget one day when I started to think about his milestones and achievements; someone asked me:
‘What can he do?’ ‘What are his strengths?’
I was taken back and stuttered for a few seconds; this was a stranger in a supermarket that I had for the 1000 time made my excuses to -
'Sorry, my son has autism and he’s quite inquisitive!'
I realised in that moment and that lady’s warm smile that for months now I had been focussing on Cameron’s inabilities.
And after what seemed like a lifetime, I started:
‘...he can tell you the workings of a steam engine.’
‘...he can tell you every make of car/truck by their logo.’ (also with engine sound effects)
’ ...he’s the top of his class in maths.’
Flash forward to today.
Cameron can be socially awkward but at every opportunity I use situations to bring this to his attention, as a learning exercise.
His vocal ticks are more controlled. He copes 99% of the time in class, this was the latest milestone from parents evening and he’s enjoying learning about “the fastest person ever!” - Usain Bolt.
On this learning journey in school he is also being taught about a balanced diet, yes he still had a limited diet to mostly beige foods but then something happened a few Sundays ago.
I was cooking a beef Sunday dinner, Cameron’s nuggets and chips ready to go into the oven on the tray when he comes bounding down the stairs:
'What is that de-licious smell mum?'
Now was not the time to educate that delicious is a taste not a smell but I have learnt to choose my battles.
'That’s beef baby.'
'Uurrgghhh, I hate beef.'
I saw an opportunity and grabbed it with both hands;
'How about you try this delicious smelling beef, and you can have some lemonade.'
The look on his face will stay with me forever followed by the gasp and realisation that he actually, really liked it.
'Mum, my goodness can I have loads of it? Beef is a meat and is part of a balanced diet.'
Thank you school, Thank you Usain Bolt!!!
This was some weeks ago now and we have had beef much more frequently since.
On a recent shopping trip we went into a butchers and he saw a hot deli with beef:
'Mum, can I have a beef butty please?'