Thursday, 19 April 2012

When Autism becomes a Physical Disability!

Aspergers on a good day! You woudn't have a clue !
Well I found myself yesterday in the cafe of our local garden centre with my eleven year old under the table hands over his ears! I wouldn't have minded but he had specifically asked to go there the previous day and this was supposed to be a treat.
You see my son has Aspergers and sensory overload can cause him to 'shut down' in the most inconvenient places. I should have seen the signs. When he woke up that morning I reminded him we were going out. His face took on a glazed expression and he said he was 'too tired'. As a home educator I often worry about his lack of motivation and desire to go out. Whilst he will often say he is bored, he refuses to do anything you suggest to the point that you give up, knowing that this is a phase he is going through on that particular day and nothing you can do is going to change it. I suppose it's a kind of depression. It's sad to see, he misses out on so many opportunities but my job is to provide those opportunities and facilitate his interests and on the days he grabs the offer it's another step foward.
Well, going back to the garden centre scenario. I had insisted we go. My son had requested it and even set the departure time. There are times when he as an adult will need to go out and I had all day if necessary to cajhole him. In fact it took ten extra minutes to get out the house, rolled up in a duvet and looking like a hot dog in a bun. I bundled him into the car before he could change his mind and off we set.
 For the first fifteen minutes or so, when he realised the new car radion needed programming; he was animated and chatty as he programmed our favourite radio stations into the radio. Then he picked up his science enclyclopedia ( our car is like a travelling library) and began reading! My son learns more in the car and when he is out than at home usually , as there are no computers or tvs to switch on when I'm not looking!
At the garden centre it was like switching off a switch, he rolled tighter into a ball and refused to get out. My heart sank. We had driven 15 miles through beautiful Lake district countryside and I was going to have to wheedle and cajhole my son to do every little thing. I finally got him out the car. There was a brief glimmer of hope as he threw a coin at the little bell in the wishing well at the entrance then he LIMPED into the garden centre and up the cafe stairs.
I've known my son long enough now to know that the autistic traits like limping, groaning, sitting on the supermarket floor come with sensory overload. He sat at the cafe table and said he didn't want anything other than to go home. I asked if I could have a drink and he agreed so I bought him his favourite hot chocolate with cream, marshmallows and a flake and said if he didn't want it I would have it. As I stood at the counter I watched him out the corner of my eye as he tucked into the cream, flake and marshmallows before curling up into a ball. I manged ten minutes holding him tight and rubbing his forehead until he slipped under the table and sat there whilst I finished my coffee.
I was desperate to buy a birthday present and it didn't look as if I had any chance of that. We made our way slowly downstairs and in the quiet of the showroom I suggested he try a wheel chair. He perked up , smiled and said he would try it.
 So there we were ,my.normally mobile autistic son wrapped in my coat being pushed round the garden centre (even having a go himself) and myself suddenly free from the chains of autism and able to enjoy ourselves. It was a bit Andy and Lou in a scene from Little Brittain! My son said he suddenly felt "secure and safe" and I realised that to him his autism is a disability which on occasions can cause him to become deaf, mute, immobile whatever.

Instead of feeling guilty about using the wheelchair I had discovered something that worked for us on that day and therefore he was as entitled as any other disabled person to use it. Just because he has a disability that cannot be seen doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. So we learned two things, my son experienced the difficulties faced by someone who is confined to a wheelchair and can only see the displays as a certain level and often has to travel the long way round to get where he wants to be ,and I learned once again to go with my convictions and do whatever it right for us as a family unit, without fear of being judged by people who don't understand ,to make life easier for my son and me.

No comments:

Post a Comment