Saturday, 27 August 2011

All About Ryan

About 12 months ago my eldest "Aspie", Ryan, started to become very aware that he was different to most of his peers. This was having a negative effect as he assumed the problems he was having at school both in the classroom and in the playground were because he was "stupid". Not matter how much I assured him this was not the case he was confused and angry and his already low self esteem was taking a beating. Thankfully at the time I had both boys enrolled in ASPECTS (Autism Spectrum Australia) Building Blocks program and had one of their teachers, Sylvia, available to ask advice.

Sylvia had been working with us for almost 6 months at this time and had quickly become my BFF! She was amazing. Within a month of our first meeting our house was totally set up with Visual Schedules, Calendars, Emotion and Noise- Thermometers and they were working. For the first time ever I felt like I had a way of helping my children cope with their anxiety.

Sylvia decided that it was time for us to tell Ryan he had Autism. I was terrified this would make him feel even worse about himself but she assured me that if it was done properly it would give him the answers he was looking for.

We spent our next two appointments discussing Ryan and his interests as well as his strengths and weaknesses.
She then made both an electronic and hardcopy of Ryans very own "All About Me" book


Then we all sat down for a chat. Ryan, Sylvia, Pete(my Husband) and I. We gave him his book and went through it in great detail. We then let him ask any questions he had about Autism. He had a few...How did I get it? Can I die from Autism? Does anyone else have it? Will I always have it?
We tried to answer his questions as positively as possible. Then the best part. Ryan got to finish his electronic book by choosing colours and pictures and also adding people who could help him.

I have to say this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do and it took a huge effort to not let Ryan see how emotional I was. I don't know if was fear of his reaction or that it made it just a bit more real, more permanent?

Telling Ryan about his diagnosis turned out to be the best thing. He already knew he was different and once he found out what was making him that way,and that there were other people just like him, he started to accept himself a little bit more.

He even got up in front of his class with his All About Me book we had laminated for him and had his teacher read it to his classmates. This was his idea. Ryan asked me if he could tell people and I told him it was his decision who he wanted to tell. He said he wanted everyone to know because no one understood him. Ryans teacher still talks about that day and I  had many parents come up to me to say their child came home and told them about it and how wonderful they thought Ryan was and also that it helped their child become more excepting of Ryans unusual and often distracting behaviours.In fact instead of laughing at Ryan and talking about what he's doing his classmates have taken it upon themselves to help Ryan stay regulated. They do lovely things like rub his back or get his weighted lab bag for him when they see him getting "jiggly".  Their response to Ryans diagnosis has given me hope for the future and encouraged me to be open and honest about my boys with everyone.

So Ryan carried his All About Me book with him EVERYWHERE for about 2 months, and very proudly told anyone who would listen "Do you know I have Autism?" Turns out this is an excellent conversation starter, great for a child who has immense trouble initiating conversation.
Ryan still sometimes says he's stupid and struggles with his self esteem, he probably always will but I hope we've helped him understand himself a little bit more and we will continue to work on teaching him the skills he needs to make his way in this world. I only wish I could follow him always and tell everyone he meets what an amazing and special person he is and how lucky they are to know him.

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