Many of you may have spotted signs that your child is different. Many of you may have been told by peers or professionals that your child shows traits of a neurodivergent condition. Not us, though!
Our journey started 1 year ago when Leah, then 7 and about to leave infant school, was really not settled at school. We put it down to her being defiant and her coming up to leave her infant school to go onto juniors, but one day her head teacher called me in to tell me my Leah is on the brink of exclusion, and somewhere in that conversation she used the word “autism.” Autism? Leah Autistic? Never!
Backtrack – I have lived with autism my whole life; my brother is autistic, and I have grown up and seen firsthand the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have also met lots of other autistic adults and children. With this knowledge and experience, surely I would have spotted some signs that my daughter is like minded?
I started researching autism as a whole and still couldn’t connect Leah and autism until I started delving into girls with autism, and wow, my eyes were opened. You see, girls have a tendency to try to fit in, to not stand out, and to really push to be the “social norm”, to be accepted. Girls are able to hide and articulate their feelings differently. Lots of girls are able to mould and blend themselves like chameleons to fit into the group or social situation they are in, making it harder to spot signs of autism.
Leah has always been the loudest, brightest child in the room. You often hear her before you see her, floating through life carefree, doing what she enjoys. Leah has always been extremely stubborn and defiant; if she doesn’t want to do something – she won’t! I have often nicknamed her in a lighthearted way Verucca Salt because, like the character in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Leah has often taken the “don’t care how, I want it now” approach. Leah has always been highly emotional and has always expressed any emotion wholeheartedly. Writing this, I sound awful because now I understand why she has been displaying these behaviours.
Anyway, I divulged a bit – back to our journey.
Leah left her infant school and went onto junior school and the transition was disastrous – Leah’s mask completely slipped. Leah’s sensory issues started becoming incredibly apparent and her not being able to regulate herself has a huge impact on her and her education. Her school has been absolutely fabulous and have managed to push and fight for Leah and within 12 months she has an autistic diagnosis and we are now looking into further diagnosis’ eg ADHD, SPD, PDA, and Interoceptive issues.
Looking back at Leah from infancy to today, I just wanted to list a few traits specific to Leah that may be helpful for other parents too:
- Spinning (a lot)
- Arm flapping
- Continuous whine or moan for attention
- Excessive tantrums
- Picky eating
- Hates the feeling of clothing and shoes
- Hates crowded places
- Anxious around loud or unexpected noises
One thing I would take away from our journey so far is how naive I was to the Autistic Spectrum. There is a saying that once you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person. Each and every person on the spectrum is different and the spectrum as a whole is very broad. Do your research! I have found events such as Act For Autism are great sources of information but podcasts, books are equally as resourceful.