For a little while now we have been coming to the realisation that there may be more to Rufus’s personality, that there may in fact be an underlying explanation for his idiosyncrasies.
Rufus is kind, intelligent, brave and all around wonderful but there are certain things that he finds more challenging than typical children. He struggles with high levels of anxiety, he struggles with overstimulation and sensory needs. Rufus is autistic.
For years the word ‘autism’ has been shrouded in stigma because the only representations of it that we were exposed to were people who had particularly desperate needs. People, or most often children, who were non-verbal and quite often in need of special support in school. I remember watching Mercury Rising and seeing this incredibly gifted child who struggled to communicate or in fact, more accurately, adults struggled to communicate with him. Even as a child, the story of this film broke my heart. This poor child, alone in the world and unable to interact with it the way he really needs to. I think most people came to similar conclusions about any example of autism they saw.
As I’ve grown and experienced more of the world I have seen a greater range of autism from across the spectrum. I think this is in part because of the work of the government to get special needs children back into mainstream school, also due to my mum’s work as a SENCO and a greater effort by the media to display the spectrum in their productions. There are of course still many children who do need lots of special care and support as well as there families, but it is good to see more representations of autism.
We haven’t spoken to many people about our new understanding of Rufus because of the stigma surrounding autism. We, or more accurately, I thought that people would judge us as being helicopter parents, or overly anxious parents looking to label everything about our child to explain away his atypical behaviour so that no one thought less of him. However I have come to realise that actually, I don’t give a damn. I don’t care what people think about how we’re handling this new parenting challenge. My kid is autistic. He’s high-functioning so with the right coping strategies he should be able to live a full and happy life, but he is atypical and he is also ausome (a new ‘term’ I’ve learned from autistic parent forums).
This acknowledgment of Rufus’s autism has been and continues to be difficult but I am also so thankful that we have acknowledged it because now we can start the process of learning how best to help Rufus. I want to give him all the skills he needs to embrace his opportunities, but I also want to give him the space to just be the amazing kid that he is. I am so proud to be his mum and I just hope I can live up to that title.