I feel a bit like I’m in a fishbowl at the moment. I’m not under any illusion that me and my life are so fascinating everyone’s crowding round for a peek into the Nym household. I really don’t think anyone’s that fussed by watching me killing time on my laptop or telling Tyger not to snatch toys from Baby Bear several hundred times a day. It’s hardly Downton Abbey. I mean, I haven’t actually watched Downton Abbey but even with my limited knowledge I’m pretty sure it doesn’t involve green haired women checking Facebook and autistic preschoolers getting irate over younger siblings daring to touch their ride-on fire engine.
I still feel like I’m in a fishbowl, though. It’s no secret I’m not exactly a social butterfly; rather more of a…reclusive moth. Actually, I really hate caterpillars so this whole metaphor is freaking me out a bit but basically I don’t go out much or see many people outside my immediate family. My parents have had the builders in to do a variety of things to the house over the last couple of weeks. I don’t like other people in the house. I don’t like other people to see me when I’m still in my pyjamas, when I want to relax (as much as is possible with the cubs), when I’m trying to deal with Tyger’s meltdowns or Bear’s tantrums, and when I’m on the toilet (yeah…I was on the loo when one of the builders appeared at the window – I thought perhaps he wouldn’t have known it was me through the net curtain until my sister pointed out I’m the only person in the house with bright green hair).
So, I was already feeling a little sensitive about people watching me and judging me and – in particular – my parenting.
|This is fine, right?
Bear isn’t quite on the window sill yet…
I wrote a few weeks ago (here) about the fact Tyger now has an ASD diagnosis but how it doesn’t really change anything for us right now. Except, of course, I won’t get challenged about his ASD by any professionals because they’ll accept he’s been officially diagnosed after a thorough assessment. Right?
I’m guessing you know how this sort of rhetorical set up works and have figured out that’s exactly what I’m dealing with.
I have had a few comments from Tyger’s preschool about how the staff there haven’t seen any of the behaviour mentioned in his reports and diagnosis but they have generally been supportive and proactive and to start with it seemed like honest feedback and nothing more. But the play leader spoke to my mum last week and the conversation could not be construed as merely honest feedback.
She asked my mum (who used to be a play leader herself) whether Mum was surprised by the fact they hadn’t seen anything from Tyger’s reports at preschool. My mum replied that she wasn’t surprised at all and it is, in fact, very common for children with ASD to mask their autism whilst at school or preschool. The play leader seemed surprised.
It is actually a problem many parents face when trying to get a diagnosis because schools or preschool settings can be very uncooperative when a child seems ‘fine’ to them, even when the parents are telling the school their child is not fine at home. Having ASD doesn’t make someone stupid. A lot of autistic kids know they’re different to their neurotypical peers and attempt to hide it as best as they possibly can. They try really hard to blend in around other people: watching and mimicking, holding in the anxiety, stopping themselves from stimming (repetitive physical movements or sounds), and gradually becoming overloaded by all the sensory stimuli (noise of the other kids, lights, smells in the lunch hall, itchy tags in school uniforms etc.). This is exhausting and often means the child will let out this big build up when they get home. So, the teacher sees a ‘normal’, quiet, agreeable child…and the parents get the meltdown.
Tyger currently goes to preschool two mornings a week. The afternoons of these days are hard. Last week he literally came through the door of the house already verbal stimming and agitated and had a meltdown over something trivial within five minutes of being home. The preschool don’t see this behaviour.
And, it seems, the play leader may have come to her own conclusions as to why. She didn’t just ask whether my mum was surprised by their observations. She also asked Mum whether Tyger behaved better for the Wolf than for me.
She might as well have said, ‘I suspect Tyger is no more autistic than any other child at the preschool and the problem is Nym’s parenting.’
This is pretty common view. Many parents have been battling this notion for years but it’s the first time I’ve been aware of it being directed at me.
It’s not nice.
I should point out this is a good preschool with dedicated, kind employees (including the play leader who spoke to my mum; she is not some sort of monster) who care about the children. It has an outstanding rating from OFSTED. Tyger loves it there.
But they don’t understand ASD. Not yet, anyway.
If a decent human being with lots of experience of children who has their best interests at heart can fall prey to this cliched opinion, anyone could. I don’t yet know what I’ll do or say in terms of Tyger’s preschool but I do know I’ll keep writing blog posts that talk about ASD in the hope they’ll help to educate even one or two people out there. Because that’s a worthwhile cause.