After the boys had been diagnosed with autism, together with their respective speech delays, I looked forward to the commencement of ‘therapy’ in it’s many and various forms. I went along armed with a notebook and pen, to sit in on the sessions so that I could learn what they were doing and how, so that I could reinforce everything at home. I was also secretly hoping that I would find all their magic tricks. I would learn what I was doing wrong. I would learn whatever it was that I should be doing and I would learn to do it better. I would do it better than anyone else, for longer than anyone else and I would make it work.
Although I had read everything I could lay my hands on but I had the distinct feeling that I was missing something, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.
From the time of their being diagnosed to the start of therapy I had coped well, or what I considered to be ‘well’ under the circumstances. I knew that the boys were autistic because I had done something wrong, although I wasn’t quite sure what that was either. I had determined, if not to ‘make amends,’ at least to adopt a positive stance to our change of circumstances. I had told the people who needed to be told. We ‘regrouped’ at home and intensified our learning. I put what I learned into practice in an amateur manner, confident that soon, experts would intervene to put us on the right track.
Therapy commenced, an intensive programme for both the boys, individually. I watched and waited. There are few things as frustrating for a parent as having to watch [and pay] for 50 minutes of speech therapy where your child refuses to utter a syllable. I waited to see what would happen, what was the magic key to force him to speak? Sometimes I could do it at home, sometimes I couldn’t but the difference between the two, were beyond me, a mystery. The experts would know. They would teach me, I would learn.
After a few of these sessions where the therapist debriefs the parent on conclusion, I asked what we should be doing at home. I was advised that homework would be very helpful. For that week we should perhaps go to the park. As he climbed up the ladder I should chant ‘up, up, up’ and ‘down, down, down’ on the other side. Additionally, a Nursery Rhyme [I forget which one now] would be of great benefit.
It was one of the few times that I burst into tears in front of a professional. The shock was profound, I was bereft. That was it? Did she think I had kept my son in a cardboard box under the stairs for the previous three and a half years? There were no magic tricks.
I turned away from my son so that he would not see me weep and attempted to compose myself, straighten my limp upper lip. If I’m honest, I don’t really know what I was expecting from the experts? I was so sure that I was missing something, that there was something else I should be doing or should stop doing, as if everybody else in the world ‘knew’ but that it was a secret that I was not party too.
I’d like to tell you that he ran to my arms for a hug, to wipe away my tears and said “I love you mum,” something uplifting, funny or tender but I can’t tell a blatant lie.
I only had to wait another four years for him to say those words.