Autism : A colourful history

This morning, I found a handful of photographs of our Ian from many years ago.  I was looking for something completely different, of course.  That is the way of my life.  The minute I actively start looking for something, the gremlins hide it from me and I will only find it at some different time, when I’m in another active search for something else that I won’t find, and so it goes on …


I also, quite by accident, came upon a diary entry concerning Ian, which I immediately wanted to share with you.  It dates from January 2002 –


“Within the space of a month I have taught Ian to phrase his questions in a different way.  For the past year he’s been saying “I want [whatever], please [whoever].”   A little patience, a little insistence, and now he asks “Please may I have some [whatever], Mummy”.  I’m so chuffed.

“Just occasionally I catch a glimpse of something which makes me hugely optimistic.  A greeting in a ‘normal’ voice, with inflection and tone.  A word on the computer which I didn’t know he knew – like the time he made a square, put a W into it, and underneath wrote Woolworths, perfectly.  The complete logo, immaculately set out.  Or when he said his prayers with us, and then said them again, on his own.

“Only this morning he was sitting in my lap, making faces at himself in a hand mirror.  When he hit upon a particularly  good one – pursed lips, squished-up eyes, squiffy eyebrows – he held the expression and turned to me, looking straight into my eyes as if to say “What do you think of THIS one?!”  I laughed and laughed.   His sense of humour is delightful.”


–o 0 o–


But moving on to the photographs …


When I was first pregnant with Ian – so early in the pregnancy I didn’t even know I was pregnant yet – I suffered a ruptured ovarian cyst and severe internal bleeding.  A reaction to the anaesthetic and extreme blood loss meant I went into shock on the operating table.   I survived, thanks to a superb medical team.  That the pregnancy survived at all was extraordinary.

I had a scan at 7 weeks, and saw the beating heart of my little blob, my miracle-child.  I even kept the scan photo – dated 19 April 1995.



When Ian was tiny, and obviously before he could roll over, I used to keep him in the kitchen with me while I cooked.  He would sleep on the countertop, fast asleep while I bustled about doing my ‘thing’, and then I’d scoop him up and take him with me when I left the kitchen.  For a few months, he was my ‘kitchen buddy’.  Then he learned to roll, and I had to make other plans.




Strong enough to climb, small enough not to do any damage … Ian loved climbing all over my car.  He got up there himself, and basically made free with it;  his personal obstacle course / jungle gym.


Before we left South Africa for Ireland, we had professional photographs taken of us as a family.  Ian is so pale, he looks ill compared to his robust tanned family …




If the hat fits …..



In those days, Ian wore a MedicAlert bracelet which pronounced his autism.  No one ever looked at it, even when he got away from me in the village and was apprehended by strangers.  In the end, I took it off.  There didn’t seem to be any point.

Ian’s rocking horse was an endless source of fun for him, situated as it was in our wonderful open field.


He rocked.  And of course he climbed.


And when he’d finished playing, he would curl up in the swing seat, and fall asleep …




And to finish off, another diary entry concerning Ian, this time trying to arrange for him to attend school :


“Apart from making it abundantly clear that I would not be allowed to participate in Ian’s schooling at all, it was also pretty clear that as the parent of an autistic child, I should be almost pathetically grateful that they’ve made the effort to “meet the parents’ needs” and set up the autism unit.  And what a bloody palava it is to get him enrolled!  He has to be assessed by a psychologist;  that report is then reviewed by the Board of Management of the school;  the Schools Inspector is then required to sanction the application; and he in turn submits it to the Department of Education & Science.”


Good grief!  I’d forgotten all that.


And to end, a verse I found at the back of the diary.  I laughed, wondering if all the parents of autistic children are strange.  Perhaps we just make our own entertainment where we can find it.  Whichever, make of it what you will ….



Each morning her face stares at me,

A picture of equanimity.

She calms me down, stills my world;

Before her lay my secrets, unfurled.

Her golden eyes have seen it all

Her calm gaze holds me enthralled.

I wish, how I wish I could be like her –

Calm, long, lean, and wrapped in fur!


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