Assessment day

Today is the day. After months of waiting, we’re taking our eldest son to his autism assessment.

I awoke after another restless night. I think it’s become the norm and started writing this on my phone. I’m not filled with the dread that I imagined I’d feel when we got to this day, rather a kind of marble cake of exhaustion and curiosity, with a light icing of anxiety.

The last few months have been challenging, but nonetheless fruitful. We’ve seen a great improvement in our sons’ speech after a few sessions of speech therapy. We’ve stopped watching television, except for the odd movie night or distraction while we power through some chores.

The more we see progress, the less I’ve become worried about everything. But the ease is yet to make it’s way into my sleeping. I think too much. I can’t stop my brain.

See, I’ve been thinking about this whole autism thing. In a basic sense it’s a condition where someone is good at some things and not good at other things. Maybe a little more extreme – master thinkers, but need a little help with, say, communicating with others.

Now, is that an affliction? Why is it such a huge deal? Why does it equate to a stigma of disability rather than ability? What’s the deal with a negative label?

Picture a kid who’s really good at, let’s say, sports. Not the most well-spoken or brightest amongst children his age, but he can shoot hoops like a machine and swim hundreds of meters effortlessly. Let’s label the affliction of being physically talented ‘Autism’. And attach the negative connotations and stresses and stigmas that that word brings. Yup, needs to go to a special school, he’s not good enough to be around regular kids, must be relegated to social outcast status. Hmm. Now doesn’t that sound ridiculous?

To be honest, right now the word Autism to me sounds like this:

Xmenjimlee.jpg

Xmenjimlee” by Marvel.com. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

 

Fuck a label. My son is awesome.

I tucked my son into bed the other night. I hugged and kissed him goodnight, and feeling overwhelmed by the day I whispered, “everything is going to be fine… Because nothing is even wrong to begin with. Goodnight son.”

“Goodnight son.” He replied. And fell asleep with his arm around my neck.

Our son blitzed his hearing test recently, despite lacking sleep and an appetite, being sick and feverish the night before. He can read and spell quite well, and counts beyond 100. He loves numbers and letters, he can sing the alphabet backwards. He’s a great block builder and has his parents’ eye for design. He remembers where we are when driving to most locations. He remembers license plates, and who they belong to (especially his uncle’s car ‘SNUSNU’. He will laugh at that one when he’s older.)

If anyone tells me that he deserves a label because he’s good at some things but not others…

Cyclops

Cyclopsclassic” by Apparent scan made by the original uploader User:DrBat.. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Maybe they need a laser beam to the face.

 

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Digital Parents Blog Carnival

This post is part of the Digital Parents Blog CarnivalSeptember 2014 Edition Hosted by Meetoo

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  • http://www.dadinating.com Seamus Curtain-Magee

    I hope the day was painless and easy for you. You clearly have your son’s back and you love him. That means more than any label ever will.

    • http://ydad.com.au mikecbay

      Thanks Seamus, my boy did quite well on the day. The testing was quite eye-opening as it helped to see our son interact in ways outside of the ‘box’ that we normally engage with or observe from.

      Thanks for the kind words. That’s what we do as dads, have our kid’s backs. 🙂 And we let them ride on our backs. Till we get tired and fall on our backs.

  • 40YrOldDad

    When I was a kid, I used to stare into space for long periods of time, especially when I was in school. I’ve always been very artistic and creative and it’s what makes my particular view on the world so unique. I could draw and be lost inside my own mind for hours (still do sometimes), occasionally I involuntarily rock back and forward. All things that today, would more than likely classify me as autistic or autistic tendencies, but when I was a kid in the 70’s and 80’s it was called, ‘day dreaming’, ‘zoning out’ or ‘special’. It was never something that had to be ‘treated’ or had a stigma attached to it or signified some kind of ‘failure’ or ‘defect’ on my or my parents behalf. It was just, ‘my way’, just the kind of ‘kid I was’. There was never a question of ‘what’s wrong with him?’ We just accepted things as that’s the just the way he is. Or ‘that’s just Justin’. My parents encouraged in me what I excelled at and enjoyed the most, and have done even in my adult life. It’s exactly as you said, there’s nothing wrong. It’s what makes you who you are and some day who you are will grow up and amaze and astound you in ways you never imagined possible. You will feel blessed to have created such a wonderful person that helps you to see life in new and wonderful ways and you will love them for it.
    And do everything with love and encouragement and that will be your experience of it, and what better way is there to make your family feel safe and supported? Hugs to you all, C-Bays xx

    • http://ydad.com.au mikecbay

      I completely agree with you, I too am certain I have behaviours or tendencies that would be considered ‘autistic’, it’s the negative connotations of labelling that really irks me.

      My colleagues (graphic designers, other creative types) often say that they themselves must be on the spectrum – after all it’s necessary to be thinking in different ways to excel in the creative fields!

      Thanks for the kind words and support Justin!

  • Rory Mouttet

    Mate you are SPOT ON. Your son is going to brilliant if he’s anything like his dad and from what I can see here he already is. You are a brilliant father and this was a very moving and inspiring post. Good luck with everything and I hope yesterday went well and you got some sleep last night. Brilliant writing man – from the heart and very special. You have lifted my spirits today.

    • http://ydad.com.au mikecbay

      You’re welcome Rory. You’ve lifted my spirits too, so thank you. I’ve been quiet lately because I haven’t been able to articulate what I’ve been feeling and thinking until recently. I just have to remember that each day brings more clarity and knowledge. Thanks for your comment mate!

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  • http://www.creatingcontentment.com/ Sarah from Creating Contentmen

    The reason yo need a label is to make the system understand your child. The education system will just flat out not understand how your child is good at some things and not good at others without a label to put on him. This label will help you gain understanding from friends, family as well as from the wider community. This understand is needed and you will appreciate it. You need to label to get financial assistance, because you also need this. You want to throw everything possible at your son to get him to be as happy and as successful as neural typical children get the chance to. You need this label because, your son will start to define himself through it, will learn how to understand his own deficiencies and abilities.

    I know at the start it is hard and horrible. But, I promise, eventually it is good. Eventually, you will like this label. Because this label is your son.

    I am on the spectrum. As is two of my five children. The label is not all bad.

  • Daniel Lister

    You are such a lovely human. I was envious of this boy at school named Josh who had an amazing ability to recite the complete history of trams, French Revolution and Australian/Indigenous history. I look forward to learning some things from your son in the future!