One of the many “perks” of motherhood, is the inevitable early starts. I’m sure it’s meant to be inspirational and motivating to start your day at 5/6am and watch the sunrise, but I can’t help feeling grumpy and bitter about the situation. This morning when my 3 year old, Thurston, climbed in to bed with me, I tried desperately to cling on to sleep for a few more minutes and squeeze what little was left out of my time in bed. I lay with my eyes closed listening to him, confused at first as to what he was doing. He was counting, but counting what? I managed to drag one eyelid open to find Thurston counting each individual hair on my head. He wasn’t begging me to turn cartoons on, or make him breakfast. He was enchanted by the number of hairs I had and could’ve gone on indefinitely if I hadn’t woken up and distracted him.
Thurston has Autism Spectrum Disorder which obviously makes lots of aspects of our life pretty challenging, but I’m noticing more and more, that if you try and look at the world from his point of view, you tend to notice things that you never would’ve noticed before. He has such a refreshing viewpoint that I have really changed the way I look at everyday things now. This all sounds very cliche and so I have come up with a round up of some of the things that Thurston has done that have made me stop and think.
Thurston is obsessed with the 20th Century Fox Logo and likes to re-enact it. He builds a big tower out of lego, lines up magnets to say “20th” and “FOX” on the coffee table and stares up at the towers. It has taken me months to figure this out, but the towers represent the beams of light at the beginning of the 20th Century Fox programme. He then grunts his way through the theme tune “do do do dooooo do do do……..!”
Thurston keeps all the packaging for his toys and instead of playing with them, he prefers to spend his time re-packaging them so that they look like new again. Every time he goes back to the freshly packaged toy, he is once again thrilled with his ‘new’ toy!
I’m sure this is true of all kids but my kid loves to run. He doesn’t run to anywhere or anyone, he will just run. He is full of joy shouting “running, running” as he runs along the beach or the promenade. If it wasn’t for the cramps in his legs, or the fact that I need to get home, I’m not sure what point he would actually stop running.
Having 3 children in the house, we have bought our fair share of bathtime toys to make the washing process more bearable. However, Thurston has disregarded all of them and will happily sit and pour water in front of him from a jug. Just the sound and feel of the waterfall is enough to entrance him for the whole of bath time. The water theme is a favourite. Other than bathtime, Thurston will do whatever he can to be near water. He stands out in the rain looking up at the sky, or he will splash in puddles. At a BBQ recently, instead of the usual mayhem of trying to keep a toddler away from the grill, Thurston was peacefully sitting on a little bridge watching fish swim in a pond.
I’ve noticed that Thurston’s field of vision is different to other people’s. When we first took him to a zoo, we were stood 5 feet away from a huge beautiful elephant, but Thurston was ensconsed in a ladybird that he had found on a leaf on the fence.
The mountains of cuddly toys and blankets we have are completely ignored and destitute and the only thing that comforts Thurston when he is tired or grumpy is a label on an old pillow. Thurston has been stroking that label every single day for hours, and as soon as it is in his hand, he is miraculously calm.
As well as his love of water, Thurston is also fascinated by reflection. His interest is not limited to mirrors. He loves nothing more than watching himself in my sunglasses while he holds on to me for a hug. He loves to play with iPods or iPhones but he prefers to watch them in the reflection of the oven or washing machine.
When Thurston was first diagnosed as autistic, it was a very scary, daunting prospect. As time has gone on, I am seeing that as well as all the difficulties that come with Autism, there is a simplicity and alternative outlook of life which have really helped me to make peace with it. If all my children, and even some of the adults I know, were as grateful for the simple things in life, such as nature, freedom, water, reflection, laughter and hugs, the world would be a much happier place.
Next time you meet an autistic child, don’t shy away from them. Try to see things from their perspective and you might see something you never would have noticed before.
Hannah-Jane Miles is a mum of 3 boys, the youngest of whom has Autism Spectrum Disorder. Living beside the sea in the South of England, she is just starting out as a writer and writes a blog about her experiences with Autism at her blog as well as for parenting magazines. Hannah-Jane likes to reassure people that raising a child with Autism is not as scary as it sounds and maintains a positive and happy outlook on life.