I am a mother of a four-year-old autistic boy. Since Reuben’s diagnosis, I work around the clock to try and help him improve his speech, behaviour and everyday challenges. I hardly have time to put on some make-up or dress up and paint my toenails.
Being an “autistic mom” sure drains me sometimes, as I constantly have to explain to people when we are in a public space that my son is autistic and means no harm or offence simply because they don’t know that something like autism exists. Sometimes it feels as if I have to apologise for his existence simply because people are so uninformed.
Reuben is happy and healthy, and I want to help raise awareness so that people can stop saying “he is just naughty” or “it’s not autism, he just needs a hiding” – don’t judge before you’ve asked.
“I constantly have to explain to people when we are in a public space that my son is autistic and means no harm or offence.”
He was diagnosed a year ago; he was non-verbal and avoided eye contact and my motherly instincts told me something was wrong. His behaviour was quite odd and a few months later he was diagnosed. For three nights after his diagnosis, I couldn’t sleep at all. I searched the internet for a cure even though the doctors said there wasn’t one.
My research yielded more negative than positive information, and it was only once I had made peace with it and started learning more about autism that I was able to help him even more. Today Reuben makes eye contact and speaks three-word sentences; he is potty trained and doing great!
What I have learned is that it is better to intervene early than to dwell in denial and waste time that could have been used to help your child progress.
I wrote this poem, inspired by my little hero Reuben Coetzee.
Although I cannot speak, I do understand.
The doctor told Mommy I have autism and pointed in my direction with his hand.
Does this mean I’m very sick, because I have never felt better?
Mommy looked down and wiped a tear as he handed her a letter.
I see the world in a different way. I have my own unique games I play.
I flap my hands and spin around; I make fun noises and roll on the ground.
Mommy, Mommy don’t you cry. I am healthy and I am happy.
Now wipe those tears, work that smile and make it snappy!
Legos and Elmo are my favourite things (and the ABC song that Mommy sings).
I feel safe under my soft blankie; Mommy knows it helps calm me down on those days when I am cranky.
I feel anxious when I’m around a lot of people and new places;
I can’t process all the talk, the noise and new faces.
Although I’m different I am aware, so please bear with me, if you care
I learn at my own pace because it is not a race
Sometimes I’m under the weather and sometimes there are sunny days.
Mommy, Mommy don’t you worry now. I don’t feel sick and I’m not in pain,
Don’t let the diagnosis drive you insane. I think autism is just the correct spelling for awesome!
Written by Doreen Coetzee aka Autism Mom. Images supplied.