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Autism And Disability - Why Little Things Can Mean A Lot

Oct 11, 2007
I have a son who developed autism just after his first birthday and I wouldn't describe my life since as being easy. However, today I was reminded just how lucky I am. Through various non invasive interventions, endless patience and persistence, my son has developed into a nice young man who I can now take most places without wishing the ground would open up and swallow me.

My son is eighteen, physically very capable with a great sense of balance and hand/eye co-ordination. He's now easy to look after and despite using limited language to communicate, he tries very hard in other ways to let people know what he wants and needs.

Another boy I know also tries very hard to communicate. However, he's not quite so physically able, infact he's in a wheelchair. Now eight, he's become a very frustrated little individual who likes to assert himself whenever possible. Unfortunately it is making it increasingly difficult for his mother to look after him and take him out alone. Not only is he getting bigger and heavier, but where once he was happy to be pushed along wherever his mother chose, he now grabs on to anything he can get his hands on to prevent the wheelchair moving, especially if it means leaving somewhere he enjoys.

Railings, gates, lamp posts are all becoming hazardous and he's now mastered the art of the wheel chair equivalent of an emergency stop by putting on the brake when the chair is in motion.

The last time he did it his mother had taken him to a play park and he'd been reluctant to leave. Needless to say he'd entwined his little fingers around every thing he could manage on the route back to the car. His mother anticipated further problems once they reached the vehicle so as soon as they got in range she got her keys out to open the car by remote control.

The plan was to make the transition from chair to car as quick as possible but her son had other ideas. He pulled on the brake, the chair tipped up and in her haste to keep it upright she dropped the keys down the drain. The mother just sat down on the kerb and laughed. She had to, if not she would have cried and I know from experience that once you start it can take a long time to stop.

Hearing that story made me once more appreciate just how lucky I am.

One thing which would have made a considerable difference to the lady in question would have been a companion to help her - a friend - another pair of hands. Over the years I have come to know one thing with certainty and that is the people who require the help the most are the ones least likely to ask for it.

I'd like you to bear that in mind the next time you think about your friend, relation or neighbour and imagine walking a day in their shoes.Sometimes, even the smallest, simplest thing can mean so much and the difference between being able to cope or not.Think about the person who is housebound and has no visitors. How about the elderly couple who have difficulty getting the newspaper which you collect for yourself every day? What about the young mother who is desperate for sleep but can't leave her baby?

I am fortunate in that I have a Circle of Friends for my son. They are people who have his best interests at heart and do fun things with him. It gives him the opportunity to enjoy a variety of activities, and gives me a break from having to be completely responsible all the time. All are volunteers and help because they want to. They derive as much pleasure from the association as my son does and we all benefit from the relationship.

My Circle also enables me to give quality time to other family members. Often disabilities split families in two and I know of several couples who always do different activities so their "normal" children don't lose out. Some even take separate holidays.

Being a parent is never an easy task but when you have a child with a disability the family unit is frequently under strain. Many couples can't take it and there are more than a few mothers (and fathers) left to cope alone. I know we all live in a busy world but most of us could, if we wanted, spare a few hours a month to help someone in need.

Believe me, it can make a huge difference.
About the Author
Jean Shaw is the author of I'm Not Naughty - I'm Autistic and Autism, Amalgam and Me - www.jeanshaw.com

For more information on autism and how to form a circle of friends
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