There’s an autism charity in NI. I haven’t had many dealings with it; I did talk to a member on the phone when we moved here and I was going to attend a group meeting one evening, but I couldn’t get away and I’ve not pursued it again. But a few days ago I got a leaflet back from Duncan’s school about a course the charity is organising for the parents of autistic children (or children with autism; mustn’t forget to use person first language ;-) ). The course is designed to help parents understand autism and their children better and give more information on the practical support available. I considered applying to take part, especially to find out more about services I could make use of in this area. But I think I would probably sit through most of it squirming in my seat as I was forced to listen to obvious, boring or irrelevant information. I also have a low tolerance for those people who like to whine and ask loads of stupid questions, you know the kind of people who always talk the most at antenatal classes.
Then I was thinking, what services could I possibly use anyway? How could outside agencies benefit my family? The answer is, I don’t think they could. I don’t think the risk would be worth any potential benefits. I don’t want to have our names written on any more files. Since we moved here I have had just 1 paediatrician visit with Duncan, initiated by us, and he has seen the educational psychologist a few times at school. One of the things I used to hate was all the visits to paediatricians and dieticians that we used to make when we lived in London.
I watched an episode of ‘Without a Trace’ late last year in which a young boy with autism went missing for a while. In the program, the parent characters tells the story of how they went to some autism support meeting at which all the couples were informed that 80% of them would divorce ‘cause autism is so bad and it rips families apart’ and all that. I remember reading that sot of stuff when Duncan was 1st diagnosed too and feeling a bit freaked out. I mean, we’d need to be superhuman to hold out against that kind of statistic! (It’s probably not true anyway.)
But I think that these statistics could actually influence you in a negative manner. If you’re having problems you might feel more likely to ‘blame it on the autism’ and admit defeat, because after all, ‘nearly every couple with an autistic child, split up’. My child’s autism does limit our family in some ways but there are so many things that are much more awful than having an extraordinary child. Everyone faces difficulties in their lives, whether with money, illness, gambling or drug use or even awkward in-laws. It has helped me to accept things the way they are, to enjoy my child and laugh at some of his funny ways. If I was constantly saying poor me look at all the things our family can’t do, then I’d be feeling totally depressed. I am so very far from being a saint and sometimes I do just need to get away from them all, but that’s what Gordon’s here for!