2020 has been a year most want to forget but even more so for my family. Even before any virus was in the news my family faced difficulties. Back in January my elderly mum fell and broke her femur.
After an operation and a stay in hospital I went from full time caring for two disabled children and carer for my husband to also being full time carer for my mum.
At 75 her recovery has been long and painful and my children have had to adapt to granny not being able to do many of the things she did before, which hasn’t been easy for them as their own struggles and autism make adapting to change hard.
For my 11-year-old son it’s been especially hard. He is non verbal with significantly high care needs himself. Unable to read or write, severely autistic with learning disabilities, epileptic and with a large mass on his brain, coupled with vision impairment and a progressive genetic condition, he very much lives in the moment and, so everyone thought, is pretty much unable to imagine the difficulties of another person.
But one day he showed us all why we should never underestimate anyone, regardless how much they appear to struggle.
I had my mum with me as I was taking Isaac to the park. He ran ahead, as always, giggling and flapping with excitement. He didn’t look back once as he headed for the gate, pulled it open and headed for the familiar frames and slides. Seeing him ahead and knowing he was safe I supported my elderly mum so she could see her grandson playing.
Isaac did his familiar (and very rigid) routine, climbing up the smaller easier equipment and sliding down the slide built for children half his age. He then moved to another area, circling the equipment as he always does and flapping. Eager to enjoy her grandson at play my mum ventured down to where Isaac was.
But then Isaac decided his rituals were complete and he began to make his way back up and towards the gate as I watched from nearby. I was torn now between helping my elderly mum with mobility difficulties or chasing my vulnerable non verbal son who has no sense of danger. But just then my mum called to her grandson:
‘Isaac wait for gran! I need help. Gran has a sore leg.’
As I waited to stop my son escaping so I could help my mum I watched in astonishment as my son stopped, turned and paused. What happened next blew me away and has taught me a lesson I will never forget.
My son, the most unlikely helper, a child still fully dependent on help himself, unable to verbally communicate, not able to read or write at 11, processed the pain and need for help of another person and responded perfectly. He turned and headed right back to his own elderly gran, reached out and took her hand, and guided her safely back through the park.
As I ran down planning to step in and help and found I wasn’t needed so I just took my phone out and snapped this beautiful picture to always remind myself to never ever limit my child again.
Yes, my 11-year-old is autistic. Yes, he’s non verbal. He absolutely has significant and high care needs and always will. He’ll always need 24/7 care.
But that’s not all he is. He’s also a compassionate, loving, wonderful boy who can show the world that we should never limit anyone, regardless what difficulties or struggles they face in life.
Everyone has potential, even the ones who appear to struggle the most.