These are the first two questions to which I needed to find an answer after our son was diagnosed with ASD. I needed definitive information. My husband, who is an engineer and who thinks and functions in a world of formulae, numbers, lines and sequence, REALLY needed definitive answers. However, as our son’s very patient and calm pediatrician informed us, although ASD is experienced very differently in every person, the pervasive nature of it means that it will permeate all aspects of our son’s life. I realised then that one of the key skills that an engineer does employ and the one that we would need almost every single day from then on, is problem solving.
Our son experiences ‘normal’ things very differently to other people, sometimes to a painful extent. We were going to have to navigate the ‘normal’ things, tweaking them to allow our son to cope. It was exhausting at first, however as time has passed, we have come to understand our son’s needs so well that the adjustments have become easier for us to make.
We are now experts at appearing as though we have just turned up at an event naturally, whereas our pre-planning behind the scenes reveals a different story. Visual schedules are printed and shown to our son – over and over – the names and faces of the people we will meet are shown to our son, so he can mentally file away names. Earmuffs are packed in case there are dogs, loud cars, loud music, sirens, or people with loud laughs or other noisy habits. Crunchy apples are always on hand for times when our son feels nervous, together with an iPad, a back-up iPad and of course everything else that our other two children need. Lastly, we grab our own wallets and phones and then we’re good to go.
People think that we are the ‘easy-going parents’, the ones that make it look easy. The truth is that we are just super-organised, because we have to be. To use our son’s favourite word: There’s nothing ‘fancy’ about us. We just know what we have to do to keep the ship steady and that’s exactly what we always do. We don’t really have any choice in the matter. Fortunately, we love being super-organised, meaning that we gain satisfaction and stress minimisation, as well as providing our son with the environment that he needs in order to enjoy a safe and happy life.