If you had told me he would go on an overnight school excursion, I would have laughed in your face.
It is a big fortnight for Bright Eyes. This weekend, his grandparents are taking him to SeaWorld. When my daughter turned eight, four years ago, the grandparents decided that it would be a great tradition to take every eight-year-old grandchild with them on a special trip.
"What will we do in four years?" I thought. "There is no way Bright Eyes will be able to go away for a whole weekend to a theme park and not go crazy himself or drive everyone crazy around him."
Lo and behold, things are different. Four years worth of therapy and treatment and love and patience and tears and struggle and teaching and modelling seem to have paid off. He hasn't panicked about the trip and I am very confident that not only will he go and have a great time, but his grandparents and his eight-year-old cousin will also have a great time.
As if that wasn't enough, four days after he comes back, he is going on the overnight school excursion with 30 children and two teachers from school.
Last year, the school excursion was to a farm to see cows getting milked. It was one afternoon and Bright Eyes threw tantrums about it for two weeks leading up to it and then flatly refused to go on the day.
This year he has gained so much in confidence and competence that he has only had one small worry about going and has said consistently that he is looking forward to it. I have enormous amounts of confidence in his teacher and again, I think it will be a real competence-building exercise for him.
I spoke on the phone this week to a lovely, loving mother who is dealing with a very difficult four-year-old, about to get a diagnosis, probably of Asperger's syndrome. In many ways, her little boy sounds very much like mine was at the same age: Lots of tantrums, explosive behaviour, violence and disruption; An inability to understand what's going on and immature and delayed speech. If you had told me, when Bright Eyes was four that he would be heading off on an overnight school excursion when he was eight, I would have looked at you warily and with disbelief and would then have gone home and laughed – bitterly. Then, it seemed impossible that such growth and progress could ever happen. But it has, and it could, possibly, for your child too.
Of course, there is no formula for how to help your child with autism, and different people find different ways to go about it, but I can never stress enough the need to take it slowly, think it through and find the money to get the help you think is really going to make a big difference in the long-term.
(If you are new here and want a quick rundown of what we do, here's the list:
Relationship development intervention program (RDI)
Diet and supplements (the biomed approach)
Sound therapy for auditory processing disorder
Homoeopathy and kinesiology
Yes, it has been expensive, time-consuming, an education and a marathon of a slog, but when I see progress like this, I think it has definitely been worthwhile.