The last blog post
Tonight I am going to Bright Eyes' Year 6 farewell dinner. He will be finishing Primary School and heading to high school in January. Honestly? It's something I never thought would happen. If you'd asked me seven years ago how he was going to get through school, I would have probably cried and said, "He can't do it."
But he has done it. And he's done it well.
I can't tell you the number of things this kid has achieved. Things that I wouldn't have thought possible years ago.
There are the basics: actually getting through the door, in the right uniform, every single day.
And there are the extras: doing the curriculum - and doing it well in general, learning to write, managing kids and noise and chaos, dealing with waiting and frustration and things that are hard.
There are the bonuses - things like coming second in the Regional spelling bee, winning a drawing competition, actually enjoying things, and having a couple of friends.
And there are the impossible dreams - doing cross country, swimming laps, making speeches, acting in plays, doing dance performances, learning the drums.
To celebrate, I've published a book of some of his drawings and comics. It's pretty awesome, even if I, as the editor, do say so myself. We plan to give the school a copy as a big 'thank you'. (All the illustrations in this post are taken from it. You can get a copy here if you're keen.)
I am so grateful. Grateful to our marvellous school and its unbelievable staff and support staff who've worked with us and listened to us and modified what needed to be modified, but pushed him when he needed to be pushed. Without this unique and friendly school, his progress would never have been as impressive.
I'm also grateful to our various therapists and doctors; most notably our RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) consultant from years ago who gave us a marvellous foundation of how to develop relationship skills and how to help him feel both competent and confidence.
We have used our scaffolding and calming skills in so many other areas of life. I think all parents (no, all people) should go and do RDI training.
Also, notably, our wonderful doctor who has worked on Bright Eyes' biochemistry and found ways to help his body cope better with the day to day demands on him.
People say I don't acknowledge our own contribution, but believe me, I'm very aware of how hard both I and my husband have worked - and continue to work - to give our son a safe and stable platform from which he can launch into life.
We aren't there yet, of course. Bright Eyes isn't 'there' yet, wherever 'there' is, but he's a darn sight further along the road. He's a smart, funny, thoughtful, insightful individual who has talents and dreams like everyone else, and I think he'll go a long way towards achieving them.
If you're a parent with a newly diagnosed child with autism, just starting out, here are the things I think you should do. They've made a huge difference. We continue to go down these roads and find new things that help.
2. Investigate auditory processing disorder and sensory processing disorder.
3. Get into the Relationship Development Intervention program and work with a consultant. Yes, it's expensive. It's all expensive. It's worth it because you'll get results.
4. Love your kid. Pray for them. Spend time with them. Enjoy their strengths and support them in their weaknesses.
5. Dogs are very calming and promote greater levels of oxytocin just from hanging out with them. If you can, get a really affectionate and sensible dog.
6. Do the work. Seriously, none of this is easy and all of it takes sustained, consistent determination. But you can do it - because if you don't, no one else will. And you want your child to have the best result possible.
7. Get support for yourself and respite where needed. You're not super-parent of the year (well, you probably are, but you can't be that all the time). We're all human and we all need replenishment and someone to listen to us.
So thank you for following along here with us over the last nine years. It's goodbye from me and Bright Eyes - and hello to the big brave world out there.