Autism

This is Autism, the hidden disability

I started this blog as I wanted to create a positive space to show how far we have come, don’t get me wrong my magical wee man has moved mountains to get to where we are today, in this post I am going to be 100% honest with the world about the complete living hell, living with Autism is not just for Lachlan but for his brother and sister and us his parents. This post has been bubbling and building in me for months, I am at breaking point now, exhausted, broken and deeply hurt, this is the result of the constant battle against ignorant people, a system that doesn’t work and an uncaring world.

Every thoughtless coment, wounds.

I now fully understand what other parents meant when they referred to Autism as the hidden disability.

Do you have any idea how much my little boy suffers?

Do you have any idea how much my bigger boy and little girl suffer?

Do you know how much strain my marriage has been put under?

Do you have any idea how much it hurts to feel powerless to make any of it better?

Can you stop and imagine for just one second how heartbroken you would feel if it was your family I was writing about?

So where to begin?

Lachlan will be 5 in 5 months time. Five a massive milestone for every child, the age at which in our country a child starts school.

Lachlan doesn’t look anything like an almost five year old, he is tiny, he wears age 3-4 clothing and even that is a recent development. I find myself these days having to remind myself he won’t be 3 or 4 on his next Birthday, he will be 5 and that he will start school in August.

Lachlan is going to attend an additional needs unit with a shared placement at our local amazing Catholic primary school, he will have 1:1 care full time. Either Lachlan’s dad or myself will always be available whilst Lachlan is at school should we be needed.

Lachlan’s world is a completely unrecognisable place in comparison to that of your avarage four and a half year old child or that avarage four and a half year old childs parents, let me tell you some more about it.

Lachlan can’t, won’t, doesn’t eat solid food, with the exception of baby rice cakes, jammy rings and baby puff crisps, everything else which is eaten must be mashed, there is no reason that Lachlan physicaly can’t eat food the same as any other child, the problem is sensory, the slightest lump that is too big, an unfamiliar smell, a new texture or taste will result in projectile vomiting of Exorcist proportions, someone new trying too hard to help Lachlan feed himself, a sickness bug, vaccines have all resulted in Lachlan literally starving himself, where no solid food passed his lips, for up to  a full month we served and binned three meals a day, we begged, the GP, OT, Peadiatrian and Health Visitor to help us, no one knew what to do the first time it happened in the end we had to go right back to formula milk as it was all we could get Lachlan to take, this has happened on three occasions in the last two years, then slowly, painstakingly we have worked back to the mashed food, taking months to get back to where we are now.

We have long since realised it is not Lachlan doesn’t want to eat like the rest of us, he does, he loves his food so long as it remains the same, just today Lachlan acctualy said to his Dad at lunchtime “taste” while Dad was eating a banana, as soon as the banana came too close Lachlan screamed and lashed out shouting “take it away”, to watch, it is like the banana was causing Lachlan actual physical pain, it was the same a few days ago when one of the older two were eating pizza, you can see it in Lachlan’s eyes how much he wants to try it,

can you imagine the torment this is for my little boy?

can you feel his frustration?

Lachlan can name every food, fruit, vegetable and sweetie, despite the limitations Lachlan’s allergies impose on us, it is not them which stop Lachlan enjoying all the foods other children love, he has never had sweets, or a bite of an apple, or ice cream, what prevents Lachlan from trying is Autism.

Lachlan is a clever bright little boy, but he can never be still, his body twitches, he seeks movement all the time, can you imagine trying to play, trying to follow an instruction, trying to learn or just watching your favourite programme while running back and forwards, or jumping up and down, or standing on your head, at the same time as flapping your arms, go on, try it,

give it ten minutes are you exhausted?

frustrated?

What happened in your program?

How far did you get with reading your book?

That is Lachlan’s life all day long, never still, not even for long when asleep, even then he gets no peace, again this for us is Autism.

We are lucky, you could call it lucky, that we have found a way in helping Lachlan be still, it involves a weighted vest and a weighted lap pad, altogether these weigh in at 4lb’s Lachlan’s body weight is only 27lb, I am no good at maths but I am sure that is almost 15% of his overall body weight, Lachlan can manage short periods of still whiles wearing the vest and can manage to watch CBEEBIES with vest and lap pad.

Can you imagine what it feels like to wear weight like this all day long?

The downside to the weighted therapy is that it is useless in the Summer months, even in a relatively cold Scotland,  Lachlan quite literally cooks in his special vest from mid June to September cutting it’s use down considerably.

Like a lot of children with autism Lachlan has no fear of danger,

no height is too high to climb,

electrical sockets and light switches make great toys to seek out and play with,

electrical cables are great for chewing,

despite the issues with food, Lachlan will put stones, glass, metal, plastic, basically anything hard in his mouth and try to chew it, he will try to put bubble mixture, shampoo and soap in his mouth.

Lachlan appears not to notice the taste.

Lachlan wants to do headstands 6ft off the ground, my curtains are trapeze ropes!

Lachlan loves to be outside, we have to keep all doors locked at all times, as once out in the garden Lachlan wants to escape and explore.

Outside poses 1000 times more dangers than inside, we had to have our locks changed and double handles fitted to the internal doors to stop Lachlan getting out, he doesn’t understand about pavements and roads or the danger cars pose, the whole world is a giant playgound to Lachlan.

By far the most dangerous behaviour Lachlan has ever demonstrated is his attraction to water, the compulsion that washes over him is almost hypnotic he will walk out to sea, not even stopping when out of his depth, big smile on his face, he wants to walk straight into rivers, puddles and swimming pools, no fear, oblivious to our calls to stop.

Can you imagine never being able to turn your back for a nano second?

Can you imagine how it feels as parents, to have this huge overwhelming responsibility?

Can you even begin to understand how if feels to know these things may always be a real risk and that Lachlan may never understand about danger or that the compulsions may be so strong, too strong for him to resist?

Do you see why not just anyone can look after Lachlan?

Do you understand why sometimes 1:1 is not enough?

This is Autism.

Lachlan will highly likely be starting school in nappies, we have made some progress in the area of toilet training not enough though. Lachlan without nappies is a nightmare right now, he shares another habit that many autistic children share, it is caused by sensory seeking, it is soul destroying, have you worked it out yet?

Yes, I am talking about smearing!

How would you cope with that?

You nip to the toilet, the phone rings, you are trying to spend time with your other children, in the middle of the night because you didn’t waken up when Lachlan did…….

Now try cleaning up the mess whilst properly watching Lachlan.

This is Autism.

Lachlan gets overwhelmed anytime someone comes to our home, this results in him promptly trying to send visitors away, even the ones he loves are greeted with a very sad sounding “goodbye “.

Visitors also result in stimming, (self stimulatory behaviour) from Lachlan this means, running, jumping, flapping and ends with Lachlan bouncing on his trampoline, the one that lives in the middle of the living room, I no longer view it as an odd piece of furniture, it just has to be there.

We get the same reaction when we go out, lots of stimming, harder to keep contained, if a bad day, going out can result in screaming, hands on ears, eyes screwed shut, head banging and dropping to the ground, refusing to move or uncurl. We often attract an audience, people stare, or worse imply we are bad parents ” with no control”, autism is in control.

Lachlan needs to chew, it helps him concentrate, it helps him process information. We have Chewies, strong rubber chews, Lachlan chews all day somedays, they save his arms, his clothes and help stop other dangerous items going in the mouth, they look awful though, kind of like smallish dog chews.

This is Autism.

Lachlan is a little unusual in terms of having a diagnosis of Autism as he is highly social, he loves and seeks the company of others and tries so hard to communicate with everyone, his speech is improving all the time, we have little chats occasionally, When we understand Lachlan beams, his smile could light up the room.

I see it in his eyes sometimes though the frustration and hurt because we don’t understand what Lachlan is trying to say, when it all gets too much Lachlan will smash his head off the nearest hard surface, with a sickening thud, he does this as it is believed banging ones head hard, resets all the sences that have gone off into overdrive,

Can you begin to understand how awful overload must feel that it drives you to smash your own head of the nearest hard surface?

This is Autism.

Lachlan needs 24 hours a day supervision, some nights Lachlan will sleep fairly well only needing directed back to his own bed two or three times.

Other nights Lachlan is up for hours, unable to settle, he wriggles and squirms as if in discomfort, unable to say what is wrong.

Lachlan frequently needs a full change in the middle of the night, sometimes our bed needs a full change at 3.00am too. Lachlan sleeps on a tiny toddler bed at the foot of our bed, there is nowhere else safe for him to sleep, a sleeping house is a dangerous playgound for a lad like Lachlan.

What if no one wakens up when Lachlan goes wandering?

It has happened a few times, one night we found Lachlan sitting in Hamish’s room in the dark eating lego, another night Lachlan climbed up and joined Alex in her loft bed, the most frightening occasion was the night we found Lachlan sitting on the landing playing with the power sockets, his hands dripping wet from turning on and playing with the sink taps, he could have given himself an electric shock, Lachlan could have died that night.

Stop and think for a second, my little boy could have died as a result of his dangerous sensory driven behaviour.

We now keep taps tuned off at the mains at night, have double handles on the bathroom door and have placed furniture in front of nearly every socket in the house. We tried Lachlan sharing a room with Hamish, we had to give up poor Hamish was falling asleep in school due to lack of sleep.

Could you go years without a full nights sleep?

I haven’t had a full nights sleep since before Lachlan was born.

Do you know how it feels to be too frightened to fall asleep because you have to keep your child safe?

This is Autism.

Lachlan has an amazing team of professionals who support him, for Lachlan this means hours of therapy sessions, every week.

We tried to help Lachlan join the activities other pre schoolers go to, the local groups happily accept Lachlan on to thier waiting lists but despite being on some lists two years he has never been offered a place, younger children have.

I am thankful Lachlan doesn’t know he is missing out.

This is Autism.

Lachlan lives at home with his older brother Hamish 13 and his older sister Alex 9, they never complain, not ever, they do suffer too though, they no longer bring friends home to play, they know that days out have to be planned round Lachlan, they have stopped asking for cinema trips to see the latest film, ten pin bowling, sleepovers, both children have had to grow up too fast, they both help out a lot with Lachlan, they love thier little brother, they are Lachlans best friends, they play with Lachlan for hours, helping Lachlan learn, they let Lachlan run on reins with them when we are out and about, they are young carers to their brother, they don’t get thier fair share of parental attention, we are spread too thinly.

As parents and a couple there is never time for just us, we attend endless meetings, we are Lachalns voice at these meetings, making sure his needs are cared for and met to the highest standards, there are sessions with the speech therapist, home visiting teacher, OT and we still have housework, meals too cook, we spend hours every week cooking meals for Lachlan that meet his dietary requirements and we have Hamish and Alex to care for too, as well as always watching Lachlan.

We have “targets” to work on. Even when not working with professionals we are always “modelling” our language, our behaviour, constantly trying to take steps forward.

It all takes it’s toll, the stress is immense, never getting a full nights sleep, I believe the stress levels experienced by additional needs parents have been found to be as high as thoes of soldiers working in war zones, for both Ian and I this has resulted in health problems and exhaustion, in the last three months my hair has been falling out at an alarming rate, my hormones are all over the place, the cause?

stress.

I study through open learning, I somehow find time to squeeze it in, my hope and aim is to get a job locally during term time once Lachlan is settled in school. I want to build a better life for my family.

Looking at Lachlan he looks just like any other little boy, you can’t see Autism. Lachlan is a wonderful wee lad who is doing his best, thanks to the support of Lachlan’s proffesionals and the determination of Lachlan’s family and extended family, I know Lachlan will always be the best he can be.

This is our families lives with Autism.

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