Friday, September 24, 2010


It is beautiful up here. Not only for the roos, the chooks, the hills and the fresh air, but the comfort afforded from being surrounded by close family who 'get you'. I can hear my mum, my son and my step-son outside negotiating how they are going to transport this load of pine-needles to the labyrinth  while making sure there is enough room for both boys to have a wheel-borrow ride at the same time. "all-aboard".

I'm unsure if it is because this home is one of Erin's most favorite places in the whole wide world - ah his lovely hyperbole - but this trip has inspired in him many sensitivities. He is hurt by almost anything his step brother (3 years older) says. There have been tears, meltdowns, hiding under tables and behind beds, threats to run away and one very interesting talk while walking around the labyrinth this morning.

"It is like we are one family who has met this other family and I don't like it". Ah, two years of living together and the reality is starting to take form in Erin's head - and he doesn't like what he sees. Cue the 'blended family talk'.

"Do you know what a blended family is?"
 "well, do you know what it means when one thing is blended with another thing to make something else?"
"Like when you mix one colour with another colour and you get a different colour?"
"Yes! exactly" gotta love the opening here, "what are two colours that you like that make another colour?"
"Red and Blue make Purple"
"Great, so if you think of Tim (step-dad), Eva (step-sister) and Oliver (step-brother) as the colour blue and you and I are red, well now that the two families are blended, together we are Purple".
Ten minutes later and my Mum and Oliver have joined us. Coincidentally my mum was asking the rest of us what our favorite colours were and when it go to Erin's turn, he said 'Red and Blue' a fact I had forgotten. Then Mum said (without knowing the previous conversation) "Red and Blue make Purple"


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

finding out, falling over and one of the lessons learnt along the way

At home, on the evening that Erin was finally given the diagnosis of Asperger's syndrome, I fell off the back step, hurting my knee (resulting in a week-long limp/reminder) and a smashed glass of Red. The combination of a step (no matter how small) and a head full of distraction is a dangerous thing.

Despite knowing for months that the diagnosis was a likely occurrence (time in which I spent distracted from my PhD and reading instead about Autism/HFA/Asperger's) the actual diagnosis come as a shock. And then it was a shock that it was a shock.

Mostly I spent those first couple of months alternating between grieving those characteristics that I thought were all Erin, but which now were apparently shared characteristics of the diagnosis, and knowing that Erin was Erin no matter the diagnosis. That he brought his own slant to Asperger's. It was Asperger's Erin style.

Trying to educate the family has been less than easy and it was intellectually interesting viewing how Erin's dad (we have been apart for many years) went through the same stages of panic, grief, acceptance, panic, grief as I did but on a different time-line. Negotiating other's understandings of Autism/Asperger's has also been difficult. It is a topic that is highly sensitive, even with friends/family who don't have kids on the spectrum. I understand this as everyone has a multiple of experiences and access to different 'truths'. There is comfort in 'knowing the truth', and this serve people well. Unfortunately if the truths held by different people aren't compatible then feelings are hurt.

As an example, while I am not completely sure now, for a while there (in my making-sense-of-this time) I was more of the opinion that Asperger's was genetic and that a lot of money had been spent researching the possibility that Autism resulted from immunisation shots, without the results to back it up. Further, I was (still am) dubious about the assertion that because of the public health campaigns undertaken and the money spent on immunisation, meant that governments were/are motivated to keep any causal link under-raps. During the time in which I was, quite feverishly, trying to understand how this happened and what portion of blame was mine  - why didn't I realise that kids shouldn't scream when extended family (i.e. my son's grandmother) come over, to the degree that the child must be taken from the room and slowly, slowly re-introduced?!; amongst many other self-deprecating ideas. I had the conversation detailed above with family who, with a baby of their own (NT), were trying to understand their own world and their own decisions (and fears). They had chosen not to immunise their child and was convinced (as were friends of theirs with a child with autism, allegedly) that immunisation was to blame.

What I heard in their argument, was that it was my fault (although I'm sure they would be mortified to know that their words affect me in that way), that once again, I was to blame (don't you love mother guilt). Though come to think of it, they could have read my assertion (genetics) as blame on the parents, also.

Now for the job of wrapping this disparate post up into something resembling cohesion....

In conclusion ;-), before the official diagnosis I felt that it held the golden key, that we would open the door to the rest of our lives, this new knowledge was only light baggage which could be easily carried over the shoulder. Instead it was a shock (one that I waited 8 months for!?). New complexities arose, telling people, sharing this with my son's Dad, with my partner and his kids in a way that they could accept Erin for who he is (not there yet with the kids but working on it). Trying to see where others are coming from, within their own contexts, when they tell me their 'truth' of Asperger's, or who Erin is (there is many more in this category than the conversation mentioned), has been one of the biggest hurdles.

I feel safe now in the knowledge that my truth is mine. Even in its fluidity, it holds a comfort to know that I do not need to swap someone's else's truth for my own. But neither do I need to convince them that they are wrong.

Oh, and my knee healed nicely, thanks ;-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

dear john

Words have been agonised over, meanings dissected. We are moving our boy to another school in the hope that they will be able to see him as the wonderful, bright and interesting young man that he is rather than as a problem to 'be handled'. The 'Dear John' email has been written to the current school, but not yet sent. The decision to move schools has been long-coming and excruciating. It is such a cliche to say that liberal ideals are all well and good when the child is not your own, but 'things are different when it is your own child' in consideration.

So far, we have had a more-than-could-be-expected warm welcome to the new school. They are organising a transition program for Erin into the school. He will even get a bit of funding through this system. The days have a strong routine and rhythm. They seem up to date and understanding of kids on the spectrum. All good things. We just need to let the other school down gently, it truly is like breaking-up.

Friday, September 10, 2010

'the rock sinks to the bottom'

‘Save yourself, save yourself’, my 6-year-old boy hollows from where he is perched on the side of the shell-shaped sandpit. Sitting not too far away I wonder to myself if this is what living with Aspergers is going to be like. Erin has always quoted movies and it is becoming more and more obvious to me. Though I’m not sure if it is because he is getting older and it loses its cute-factor or if reading that some Asperger people quote movies verbatim has heightened my observation.  Only two days ago, while standing in the kitchen Erin blurted out ‘When I am an adult I will say different things because I will watch adult movies, now I watch kids movies and so I say kids things’. His sporadic displays of utter self-awareness often shock me. After all it has only been a few short weeks since I read that the practice of quoting movies and books (a lot) was an Asperger’s trait rather than just a Erin trait. Apart from his display of self awareness it was the thought that this avid quoting could not only continue into adulthood but that Erin had appeared to absorb it into his communication style.

‘He often interrupts and says things out of context’, his teacher wrote in a letter to the pediatrician. This conjured up a sorrowful image of my beautiful boy interrupting to say something like ‘the brachiosaurus eats leaves off tall plants and tress’ while the 28-strong class diverts their attention from the teacher to this boy who says things off the top of his head.   When he was two he would often, for no apparent reason (of course there may have been one for him) say over and over ‘the rock sinks to the bottom’. Every time he said this it would be with the exact intonation and emphasis on the same parts of words as the time before and the time before that. It took another watching of the movie Ice Age to realize that this is something that Sid says once in a not very memorable scene.