'My world started to close in and soon became a very lonely place'
My concerns for George’s development started when he was two years old. I had friends with children of a similar age to George and I would always feel a small sense of disappointment when they would tell me stories about the things their little ones were doing and saying. George seemed so far away from these milestones. Why was he different? Eventually, the signs were starting to show; he avoided eye contact, methodically and obsessively lined up his toys and was extremely sensitive to noise. Typical baby and toddler routines just never worked. It was obvious that something wasn't right. If the struggle to make the waiting list wasn’t distressing enough, the subsequent year long wait for a diagnosis was really starting to take its toll. As the situation became more difficult, our family began to struggle. We just wanted to receive support as soon as possible. George would violently self-harm during many of his meltdowns and we were clueless as to what was wrong or what we could do. My world started to close in and soon became a very lonely place. I stopped going to mother and baby groups and avoided contact with others. Other parents simply didn’t understand his behaviour and I always felt scrutinised and judged as a parent. Family outings became limited and my relationship with other mums started to dwindle. Finally, after an agonising wait, his diagnosis opened many doors and a whole new wave of support and guidance, including a health plan that would allow us to send him to a special school. We had finally turned a corner. 18 months later, George is a very happy boy. He attends a fabulous special school where he enjoys superb facilities and a dedicated team of support professionals. We had finally found his tribe! As a family, we’ve attended numerous workshops and met other parents in a similar situation. Our journey quickly became less lonely and a lot less scary. I have now learned to recognise and embrace the positives. George has taught me to see the world through a different pair of eyes. He has taught me to embrace and accept that our family functions very differently and not to compare our lives and experiences with those of others. We continue to observe and delight in some of the small steps; occasionally responding to his name, making eye contact or improved communication. I’d be naive and arrogant to think that others breeze though parenthood. We all face our own challenges and obstacles. Despite the tantrums, sleep deprivation and meltdowns I certainly don't feel that I'm a victim. On the contrary, George and I have forged an inseparable bond as we continue to learn and grow together. We are happy. My son has autism and I wouldn’t change him for the world. Author credit: Megan Tighe