I would like to tell you about my daughter Amber and highlight that it is Autism Awareness Month, writes Cottingley Hall resident Christine Robinson-Perkins.
My daughter Amber is a happy healthy little girl who enjoys music and always sleeps with her favourite teddy Stitch. She enjoys playing outside and particulary bouncing on the trampoline!
I guess you could replace the name with a hundred other childrens name and this description would fit well although there is something different about my little girl. The world for her looks, smells and sounds completely different than it does for the majority of us.
She has strict routines and habits that she needs to complete everyday like having the kitchen light on constantly wether its daylight or not, eating crisps that only have certain colour packaging. Having her toys lined up and facing all the same way in the middle of the landing floor.
Dressing like a princess as soon as she gets in the house and only eating pink biscuits! These are only some of the things she needs to do everyday. Now you may be reading this thinking “why does it matter what colour the crisps packets are”….”why don’t i tell my child not to leave her toys in the middle of the landing” indeed she might even sound a little spoilt that I will indulge every whim she has, however this is not the case as these behaviours are part of Ambers Autism.
Interrupting any of the above things would cause her a massive amount of stress, she will become afraid and maybe react violently. Yes this sounds like an extreme reaction, but for Amber taking away or not allowing her to carry these things out , IS extreme for her not to have them.
Amber was diagnosed as having Autistic Spectrum Disorder when she was 2 years old. In her first 2 years I could tell there was something that wasn’t quite right. She didn’t cry apart from when she was placed under the baby gym and she would scream as though terrified. She didn’t respond to her name, she never put anything in her mouth like toddlers tend to when they get to a certain age everything gets put in there, but not Amber she didn’t even chew her fingers!
It was difficlut to wean her onto solids which she didn’t take to til she was around 2 and a half. Her speech didn’t develope at all, not a mama or dada, she didn’t even babble. I noticed she didn’t interact with anyone which i thought strange as she had 2 older brothers but she showed not one bit of interest in any of us.
She started pre school nursery where again she didn’t interact with anyone. Amber didn’t play like the other children either and she developed habits there too, she would go into the outside play area and rearranged the crates in exactly the same order everyday, if they were knocked or moved she would go and put them back. Amber has progressed alot since then and as we approach her 5th birthday she does have some speech and has been calling me mummy for the past 5 months!
She has become interested in some people and has a best friend who she chosen for herself. She has basic handwriting skills and even read the words in her school reading book 2 weeks ago.
So why have i decided to tell you all this? well April is Autism Awareness Month and not many people know that! Likewise not many people have heard of Autism.
It is a complex and complicated condition that effects people in so many different ways but for me the more people that even hear a little about it the less alien it is.
I recently read posts on a website that shocked me, people had completely the wrong idea of what it was about some suggested it was just children being naughty and others believing it doesn’t really exists and the only benefits of having a diagnosis were the state benefits you recieve! Both these statements are completely untrue! Autism is one of those “invisible conditions” if you look at my daughter you probably wouldn’t know she was autistic and if you saw her kicking and screaming in say the supermarket you may well tut and wonder why am not controlling my child, would you recognise that the lady who just walked past us was wearing a kind of perfume my daughter can’t tolerate the smell of and it has overwhelemed her senses so much so it has caused her to become distressed?
No and i wouldn’t expect you to recognise it, but maybe next time you see that reaction from a child out in public think twice about tutting at the mother and shaking your head consider the possibilty that the child is like Amber.