It just would’t seem right as a mother of two children with autism to let this day pass without writing in my blog.
I had so many plans to write a positive, upbeat blog about how great my kids are, how much autism has taught me and how proud I am of them.
Yes that is all true but yet ironically, today of all days, autism has hit me right in the face again.
It started off so well with publishing a video on social media that was received well. Both kids got off to nursery and school easily enough and I even got to get a hot cuppa without the phone ringing or the door bell going. Gosh, I even managed a shower!
But then my daughter came home from nursery with that look that told me her morning had been a struggle and she was right on the edge of crying. Call it mother’s intuition or whatever you like, but I just knew this was a ‘big one’. This was something that was going to take days or weeks to recover from. And I was right.
First thing I noticed was the smell. My poor baby girl had been in a dirty nappy for hours and it hadn’t been noticed. She is in a busy mainstream nursery where she doesn’t speak but complies with requests without question, and is hugely anxious about approaching or interrupting staff. So she would never ever say she needed changed. After being refreshed and fed she told me exactly where she was when she ‘went’ and what she was playing with (she is a girl of detail) and how she looked at a member of staff but they ‘never noticed me’. You see, this is autism. She has no idea, even at 5, that the staff can not read her mind. They can not understand that she needs changed simply by her looking at them. And she did say they never even looked at her back as they were ‘busy like they always are.’ So my baby just carried on with a soiled nappy on hoping someone would notice.
It came to snack time. She rarely takes snack but staff are trying to encourage her more. So they succeeded and she sat reluctantly on a chair even though this was uncomfortable. Why? Because the ‘lady told me to sit down’. She was then offered strawberries which she took because she was told to. But she hates strawberries. They make her sick. So she naturally left them on her plate. Staff (who understandably have no knowledge that these make her sick as I forgot to mention it when enrolled her 18 months previously) encouraged her to eat them. So she did. Even though they make her sick. Why ‘because the lady said to eat them.’ Her autism makes her compliant to rules, even if those rules mean she will be in pain and discomfort. She has to obey. That is the rules. That is what you do.
At circle time she went to the carpet. By now she was sore and very reluctant to sit down. So she stood and looked at a member of staff. A silent plea for help. A silent hope that they could read her mind. They told her to sit down. So, despite the pain this caused, she sat down. ‘It made me sad mummy’. Oh baby, it makes mummy sad to hear this too.
She then sat on a bus for 45 minutes to come home. Still no-one noticed. Until finally she got home and it all came out. And shortly after telling the story she was sick. Then sick again. And again. ‘I ate strawberries mummy and I always get sick when I eat them.’ She knows. But would she do it again? Yes she would. Because she can’t seem to break the rules. If someone tells her to do something she will. She is obedient without question, even to her own pain.
She won’t be back to nursery for weeks now as she will be off sick tomorrow and maybe the next day too. And then the schools are off on holiday. Perfect timing as she never wants to go back.
I thought we were getting somewhere. I thought we were getting closer to going to mainstream school. Today reminded me we have such a long way to go yet.
I so wanted to be upbeat on this world autism awareness day. But autism doesn’t take a day off. Autism hits you when you least expect it. Autism can still be hard even when you accept it and embrace it head on.
This isn’t about the nursery getting it wrong today. Things happen. People are human. And they can’t be mind readers like my daughter thinks they are. This is about a little girl who is vulnerable, hurting, and confused.
This is about a little girl who is now sick. This is about my heart breaking once again. This is autism. On world autism awareness day.