Tuesday, December 27, 2005

The Boy

My son (who, despite the misery of child birth, I do love very much) is autistic. He was diagnosed when he was two years old. He's five now.

He's 'high functioning' which basically means he has various subtle problems which are difficult to explain, and half the time, no-one believes me.

It might be Asperger's Syndrome, it might not. The professionals will decide when he's older.

It'll be bedtime quite soon.

After I've helped him wash his face and hands, and brush his teeth, I'll change his nappy. Then I'll make sure all the drawers in his bedroom are shut tightly. If they're slightly out of place, he screams.

Each and every toy he owns goes in a particular box or basket. And that box or basket goes in a particular place in the room, in a particular position. It's my job to make sure it's all exactly right, or he'll panic.

That done, I'll make sure all the toys that go on the bed with him are on the bed. I'll make sure the curtains are open by exactly a foot, no more, so he can see the sky. I'll read him the same story he has every night. I'll give him a big cuddle and switch on the two night lights, and leave the room.

A couple of minutes later, the screaming will begin again. If I've been thorough, then nothing's out of place and he'll accuse me of having not given him a goodnight cuddle. Which I did.

At some point during the night, he'll scream until I come through. At the moment, as it's winter and quite cold, it's usually because he's kicked his covers off. It's not that he can't pull them back up, he knows how. It's just that it doesn't occur to him that he can do that. His brain's wired up a different way. He has to be told to pull them up.

Although last week he woke me up screaming because he'd realised his shoes were not on the chest of drawers as they should be. They were on the floor next to it. It didn't occur to him to move them himself.

He screams all day long. I wake up to him screaming. When I ask what's wrong, he says "Nothing."

The other day he cried for ten minutes because one of his crisps was smaller than the other ones.

He screams to communicate displeasure. He screams to communicate pleasure. He screams to entertain himself. He screams when he needs help. He hits himself, accuses someone - who's often not even in the room - of hurting him, and screams.

Only this year has he learned to tolerate solid food. Until recently, he ate custard, spagetti rings, cream crackers and beans. Now he won't even eat that.

The educational psychologist thinks he'll be fine in a mainstream primary school without much help. Mind you, this from the woman who asked me if she could stick her head round the door of his nursery classroom, because it's "...always nice to put a face to a name, isn't it?"

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