My son’s first day of school didn’t turn out to be a happy one for us.
When his Dad went to collect him at the end of the day, the head teacher pulled him aside and told him that he had autism and both himself and his older brother were dyslexic. Despite not being qualified to diagnose these conditions, it was still very upsetting, especially as it was said in front on all the other parents.
She did however highlight a nagging feeling that something wasn’t quite right. Doctors don’t generally test for autism until 8 years old in the UK, and as that was 3 years away, there was no way I was waiting. I found a place in Edinburgh who tested for autism and took my son along for what turned out to be 3 hours of testing.
They told me there and then – your child is Autistic. It turns out the teacher had been right.
I shall never forget that day. I fell to the floor, I was devastated. I looked at his wee face, he didn’t understand. He was however stressed, he didn’t like the tests at all, so much so that when we came home I found him in his room with a knife. He had cut his head.
I can only describe finding out your child is autistic as similar to grieving. I felt like someone had died, which I suppose they had. The wee boy we had such hopes and dreams for, would never be ‘normal’, would never marry I was told, would never fit in at school, and would always be miserable. I was at a loss as to what to do. The grieving process went on for a long time, for myself, his Dad and the whole family.
I wasn’t satisfied by the verdict and felt he was capable of more. After a bit of searching we found an amazing Educational Psychologist, who re-did his tests. He told us Ryan has high functioning Aspergers, ADHD and dyslexia, and if we could get the right environment for Ryan to learn, then he would excel.
I knew I had to fight for Ryan – no one else was going to and I wasn’t comfortable putting the control of his health in other people’s hands. If I could heal myself could I help him too?
I spent the next few years learning everything I could about autism.
We moved to Cyprus and found a special needs teacher for him. At this stage he couldn’t even write his name. After 3 months of one to one teaching Ryan had caught up with two years worth of schooling, I was delighted!
However every time I looked at him he looked grey with very dark circles under his eyes – I couldn’t understand why, he ate well and was pretty healthy. He may have autism but my understanding was that this is a neurological disorder – so why did he look so ill? I took him for blood tests at the Autism Treatment Trust in Edinburgh and what we found was a massive shock. He was very ill. He had so many issues he was basically fighting disease all day every day. I knew then, I couldn’t cure his austim but I was determined to get him as healthy as I could.
I found an amazing book called Healing the Symptoms known as Autism, this changed everything. We started the protocol and this included a massive diet change, no food toxins, gluten, dairy, sugars etc. We also went for 60 one hour sessions of hyperbaric oxygen and this helped massively.
Gradually I started to notice little changes. He began to dress himself, whereas before he would walk in a circle and couldn’t put on any clothes. He had bright, rosy cheeks. He started laughing all the time (he has a very wicked, somewhat rude sense of humour now). It was working. He was healing!
After a couple of years of living with the changes we’d made, we took him back to be re-tested. His ADOS (autism ) score before was 149, this time it had dropped to below the diagnosis level. It was just 7.
We were shocked, but elated. He had lost his autism diagnosis.
My son is now 13, and looking back to that first day of school I can reflect on the journey we’ve been on together. He has taught me so much. Even now, despite him losing his diagnosis, I know that if he eats the wrongs foods, and overloads his body with toxins and sugars etc, he will revert back to the way he was.
Everyday is still a struggle for him: too much noise, too many people, clothes labels scratching him like needles every time he wears something, not understanding the games people play. He still struggles to cope with the world around him at times, that will always be the case.
For parents and the rest of the family and friends, it can also be very difficult, from the well intended lectures about “what you are doing wrong and how you are just being over-protective” to trying to keep up with you child’s ever changing needs. I’ve always found it so hard to see the way Ryan is treated by others, many times he would be the only child not invited to parties, or I would look on in the park and see all the kids playing together, and he would be on his own. That said, we have made amazing friends over the years who accept our family and love us the way we are – my advise, if you find friends like this: hang on to them, they are precious.
He is so brave and amazing though, and works so hard at it. He has taught me how to keep going, to keep getting on with it and seeing the best in people even when they are calling him names or bullying him. He has taught me how to forgive and that this a precious gift in life.
I tell him every day that being different is a gift. ADHD, dyslexia and autism are gifts. They have so many positives and the things he can do are amazing – the world needs these kids, we don’t need to hide them away like lost souls.
Here’s to being different, and celebrating that difference. To working at things, and healing ourselves. To forgiveness, and most of all, to making the most of our special gifts.