Advice For Parents Of Autistic Children

Saskia didn’t start talking properly until she was eight but when she did talk to you there was never eye contact, she would look over your head

From the time Saskia was very young we knew that something was amiss. She never settled, always crying as if she was in pain - even after a sleep. She would wake herself up crying and this continued every single day. Nothing we did helped, we assumed when she reached the age of three she would be able to communicate what was wrong but the words never came. The tantrums and frustrations grew worse. Language became such an issue for her, the only way we could explain her difficulties would be as if you were trying to learn a foreign language. Sentences did start to form but they were jumbled, back to front. Saskia didn’t start talking properly until she was eight but when she did talk to you there was never eye contact, she would look over your head. We spent ages trying to build up Saskia’s eye contact and for any parents struggling with this too, don’t let that one go, keep on at them to look at you even if they refuse, because in the long run will help them not only socially, but it helps to work out facial expressions and non-verbal direction. Saskia still finds this difficult, to read a face, to hear a tone of a voice (her voice can get very monotone when she is stressed or trying to understand a new concept or situation).

Right from the get go Saskia was incredibly hyperactive, she walked and fed herself before she was one. Her imagination was so inventive and fun, she loved making up games for others to follow but found it hard to follow other children’s games and structured play. Her voice was huge too, you would always hear Saskia before you’d see her come into a room - to this day when she sings still doesn’t need a microphone. The only quiet time would be if we put on a movie (Disney); it was as if she transported herself into the story and then her concentration was immense, even as young as 18 months she’d watch ’til she dropped. Once she fell asleep standing up watching The Little Mermaid. The crazy thing is for all the noise she made she actually hated loud noises. We could never go to fireworks night, or if thunder came she’d be hiding somewhere, to this day we couldn’t figure that one out.

Saskia doesn’t see the world in the same way as, and we hate saying ‘normal’ but let’s say the majority of people and how they see life. It was like she’d had a huge chunk of learning missing from her development. Anything new for her was an uphill struggle, and incredibly daunting.

We could go on and on about how each year of her life bought a new challenge. I suppose there is no guide book to follow to help you overcome these challenges as every child is different. If there are any words of advice that we could give, it would be to try and find the one thing they care about or are interested in. Whatever it is, make that the focus and if possible to include in a social situation with others. Luckily for Saskia she had a passion for the stage, acting singing and mimicking. Actually any theatre group is fantastic for a child that doesn’t always fit in. It helps them to express themselves, to embody someone else, it was very stress releasing for her when she’d have a bad day at school.

Today the help and support is far more available then when Saskia was young but we were lucky enough to pay for a different environment than state education. She needed a less structured, smaller, safer environment to be able to grow.

We were always there as backup with lots of laughter and fun but Saskia was fearless, she put the hard work in to overcome all the difficulties along the way. It would have been very easy to hide away and feel sorry for herself, but she didn’t and by the way we wouldn’t let her anyway and I think that is another bit of advice. Be the backup but allow them to work it out for themselves, don’t feel sorry for them either, or embarrassed by the way they act, (we have felt both emotions) they have to find their own way.

Last bit of wisdom, keep jibber jabbing in their ears; tell them they are amazing and that they can do anything they set their minds to even if it seems to be the impossible, and keep laughing even when you want to cry. When we think of our little girl a ball of frustration to who she is today, we feel so proud of her.