Autism Awareness Month - April 27
Throughout April we will be sharing a different story each day to help raise Autism Awareness and highlight how peoples' lives have been touched by Autism and Autism Queensland in different ways.
Ashley was an unusual baby but I was always “told” that he is a “boy” and that my expectations have to be different even though my belief was, after two girls, that the baby/infant stage would be similar. Changes such as night into day and day into night, leaving the house, in the car, then out of the car, shopping centres, and different surroundings used to bring on adverse reactions in the form of constant crying/screaming from birth. Feeding was difficult; he did not know when to stop. Ashley loved bubbles, he ran before he walked and has only now, at the age of 16, started to slow down as he is an adolescent and is trying to withdraw from the outside world – a world which continues to confuse him.
Communication was by dragging me to the cupboard or fridge then I had to “know” what he wanted. Ashley was an active boy, always on the go, could not focus on anything for a length of time, very high pain threshold, biting others, little speech which developed slowly around the age of 4/5. Behaviours such as hiding, tapping, screaming when parent helpers/different adults came near him, not being able to focus or complete a task, biting/hitting/kicking children and adults if they came near him, falling asleep instantly with his head banging onto his desk and the teacher being unable to wake him, needing to take objects from home, collected glass, keys and put chewing gum he found on the ground into his mouth. At this time Ashley began his journey in the education system where his behaviours were not understood or accepted leading to a diagnosis, by an understanding Paediatrician, after 7 months of investigating sleep disorders and petit mals. Finally, I could help my son and daughters. My GP apologized for not listening to me, thus, began Ashley’s journey through high functioning autism with a co-morbidity of ADD.
My family and I were in the “bush” when Ashley’s journey began where services were non-existent. We had to travel three hours to the nearest main town . Access to Child and Youth Mental Health was the beginning of Ashley’s diagnosis with the assistance of a Child Psychologist. At the same time our GP started to “listen” to me, referring me to his first Paediatrician. We have since moved to the coast and continue to live in a rural zoning along with support from Ashley’s Paediatrician, Psychologist and Speech Therapy.
Autism Queensland was my source of support, information and the workshops I started attending in 2000 and continue to attend are invaluable as I learnt to help my son and his siblings navigate his world. We are still on this journey - learning every day. The Outreach Team service has helped me assist my son along the way and especially now as he ventures into the unchartered waters of adolescence. Patience, perseverance, understanding along with developing very strong coping strategies continue to be our way of furthering Ashley’s journey.
Ashley’s journey will continue to be one of opening doors in his life. He has difficulty recognizing his emotions and how they affect his body which then frustrates him. Ashley is beginning to make decisions for his future, taking ownership of his journey. This journey will continue for not only Ashley and his family but also, people in the wider community who have the opportunity of knowing a person on the ASD spectrum.
Mother of Ashley