Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism

I watched BBC One’s Richard and Jaco: Life With Autism last night.

As a parent, I am able to identify with Welsh actor Richard Mylan’s fears for his son’s future.

As an autistic person, I understand Jaco’s world.

My son will be eight this year but does not have the ability to mask his autism as I have been able to do. Like Jaco, his autism is obvious. He wandered in while I was watching it and saw Jaco wearing his headphones. He said “Look mummy, that little boy looks like me!”

Richard impressed me with his desire to understand his son’s world even though it’s impossible for people to truly understand what they don’t experience themselves. However, Jaco is a lucky little boy to have Richard as a dad and the love he has for his son is a beautiful thing to see.

You get a view of what life can be like with an autistic child like Jaco. He reminds me so much of my own little boy, as in,visibly uncomfortable with environmental stimuli but happy in his world.

In order for him to learn more about Jaco’s future, Richard went to meet various people on the spectrum. First he met Alex Lowry who is a motivational speaker and trainer on autism. An animated man, he is obviously passionate about what he does.

Although Jaco started secondary school and was happy, Richard was interested in finding out about special schools. In one such school he met two teenagers who had been tasked with the job of showing him around. One boy told of the bullying he’d endured in mainstream school culminating in a broken arm and the other told of being ‘kicked out’ of school for being ‘naughty’. Both struggled in mainstream but both spoke highly of the special place where they are understood and most importantly, happy.

Then there was Edward who is severely autistic and in residential care. He is a young man who is happy in his own world and who has a great support network. He, like every other autistic person, does not know what ‘normal’ feels like. All we know is our normal. Ed has an amazing memory and can tell you what day your birthday was on when you were born in a matter of seconds. He is a fascinating person.

Ed’s mother by her own admission has taken a leap of faith in allowing him to live independently but said, “You have to let your kids go don’t you? You have to let them grow up and be independent”.

Bottom line is yes, we do.

The person who struck me the most was the young man who Richard visited in his workplace. This man was literally living his dream of doing admin. Yes, admin! The job that so many people loathe. Yet, he was happier than a pig in muck sorting through all the letters and stuff. What’s more, he is a valued member of the team and according to his boss, contributes to the happy and relaxed atmosphere of the office. What choked me up was when he said to Richard, “If I didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t be as special.”

Richard said “So you see it as a positive thing?”

With eyes that twinkled (and bloody good eye contact thank you very much) the young man replied, “Yes. autism is a very special thing and whoever has it should be proud of it”.

I am proud of who I am and I want my son to be proud of who he is too.

The Boy and I have the same problems but we react very differently. I am an autistic person raising an autistic child and I know how important these next few years will be for him. I can’t sit back and do nothing because he will be a teenager before I know it. I have to prepare my son for a life without me and I have to do it now. I can’t guarantee that his secondary school experience will be as positive as his primary one but I will be watching closely and if he’s unhappy, I will have NO problem in placing him in a special school, especially after seeing how happy those lads were.

My passion comes not only from being his mum but also my years of suffering in mainstream. I know, without a doubt, that I would have been happy in a special school tailored to my needs. With the confusion and crowds removed, I would have thrived instead of having just about survived. However, my time has long since gone. It’s my son’s time now..

I want him to have a relationship. To be able, not only to work, but to be appreciated for his contribution to society. Ultimately, I want him to be able to live independently of us. Don’t get me wrong, I dread the day coming when he no longer needs me but that’s also the day I’m aiming for. It’s what every parent aims for. Sadly, some people are too severely affected for total independence to be an option.

More than anything else in this world, I want him to be happy and to embrace his differences, not hide them as I have done.

We, as parents, do the best we can for our children. We give them the tools they need to survive and they take what they’ve learned out into the world. With autism, the work starts earlier. It has to. Richard Mylan knows that. I know that. Most autism parents will understand that. Another thing that unites us all is the fear of not being here for our special children so we do the very best we can while we are still around.

Thanks to Richard and Jaco for a glimpse into your lives and for helping to spread awareness.

Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism is on BBC iplayer for one more week. Well worth a watch, folks.

Spectrum Sunday

My A to Z of Teenage Boys

It’s midnight. A new day has begun. Only this isn’t any ordinary day. This is the day your son turns into a TEENAGER and so the metamorphosis begins..

Within the next few hours he will lose the power of speech and most likely the use of his arms and legs. However, he will retain the ability to eat, sleep and game. The next few years will test your sanity to its LIMIT so strap yourselves in for a bumpy ride but take comfort in the thought that one day he may have teenagers of his own..

horse-178093_1280

Ablutophobia

The fear of washing and bathing. Note, this fear miraculously disappears when girls are no longer considered repulsive.

Brains

The teenage brain isn’t developed fully – especially the part that deals with consequence which is why they act like morons occasionally. It’s biological.

Crazy

Is what you’ll be by the time they’re 18.

Tip: Alcohol helps.

Deodorant

Often used in lieu of a bath.

Embarrassment

Once you were the center of his world then puberty called and now you are an utter embarrassment to him. Isn’t it time you were in a home, you geriatric old sod?

Food

Teenage boys are bottomless pits when it comes to food consumption. They will eat you out of house and home and still complain you’re starving them to death. Good news! When they invite you to their house (Christmas 2053) to sit on a crappy old deckchair with more cobwebs on it than your reproductive bits, you can get your revenge by wolfing down their Quality Street, drinking all their booze and anesthetizing them with your sprout-fueled farts. Karma, no?

Grunt

The power of speech is temporarily lost at the onset of puberty and replaced with grunts. Texting by way of communication is an option but expect to receive one word answers to your 5000 word epic. Forget ‘kisses’. Those days are gone for the foreseeable, if not forever. However, you are guaranteed one on your embalmed forehead when you’re laid out in the deceased depot after choking to death on one of your false teeth.

Hormones

The reason your little prince turns into an argumentative sod.

I

I want. I need. I can’t.

The teenager’s world revolves around themselves. It’s biological.

Jurassic

The period they presume you to be from because you are in your thirties or forties.

‘OMG you’re THIRTY? That’s like SO OLD! YOU REPULSE ME! SOMEBODY ADOPT ME?’

Knowledge

Teenagers know EVERYTHING. You can die now.

Life

You give them life and you ruin their life by asking the impossible of them, like putting the bin out.

McDonalds

Popular food of choice and possible first job (not counting paper round) which may or may not lead to a managerial position within the first week.

Nintendo

Or other gaming console. Your teen must be plugged into this machine for at least eight hours a day to maintain their vital signs.

Onesies

An oversized babygro which some teenage boys like to lounge around in while watching programmes about big-breasted vampires.

Pit

Bedroom. Derived from cesspit, as in, an underground hole that stinks. Enter at your own risk, preferably wearing full bio-hazard suit.

Hazmat_suit_c1918

Quiff

A 1950s hairdo that’s seen a bit of a revival. The teenage boy either can’t be arsed faffing around with his barnet OR or he has the entire range of products in Superdrug’s hair section at his disposal and goes out looking like Justin Bieber.

Elvis, Morrissey and my Dad all rocked the quiff, though not necessarily at the same time.

Morrissey-Alexander-Film_(cropped)

Mozzer, not AS quiff as it was in the 80s but still a quiff.

Rude

Teenagers tend to go through a manners malfunction stage and like to mutter expletives under their breath which bat-eared mothers NEVER fail to hear. I once told mine to sod off. I was upstairs, she was in the next town. She heard me.

Speed

Even the laziest of teenagers can shift faster than a greyhound out of a trap when threatened with the confiscation of their games console.

Tired

Teenagers can rack up more hours asleep than a sloth if given the chance. It’s biological.

Underwear

The young teenage male will happily wear the same pair of pants for a week month. Parental intervention (nagging) is essential during this phase to maintain their hygiene and your sanity.

Vomit

Teenagers + alcohol = projectile vomit + stolen traffic cones

Why

‘WHY WAS I EVEN BORN!!!!’

A phrase often used by teens when asked to wash up when they are trying to rid the world of zombies.

You: ‘Do the dishes please’

Them: ‘UH?

You: ‘The dishes?’

An hour later….

You: ‘DISHES, NOW!’

Them: ‘OH MY GOD. IN A MIN. OK?’

This goes on until you finally lose it and yank the cable out of the wall. You threaten to throw the games console in the bin. NOW you have their full attention. They scream ‘I HATE YOU! WHY WAS I EVEN BORN?!’ They stamp off upstairs, you go full Basil Fawlty and wrestle the console away from the TV. You launch it into the wheelie bin and then flounce round the shop for some alcohol. You’re that pissed off you haven’t even noticed that you’re still in your slippers! Two pints of wine later, you wash the wretched dishes yourself. Then you retrieve the console out of the bin and as you stand there wiping yesterday’s spag-bog off it, you silently will your ovaries/testicles to expire so you NEVER have to go through this shit again.

X Rated

Starts off with the undies section in your catalogue. Before you know it they’re going blind staring at heaving bosoms on the internet. Once the bed-sheets begin self-starching you know your little prince is gone forever. Weep for innocence lost then dry your eyes and get them to strip their own beds. *shudders*

Yob

Boy spelt backwards. Uncultured arse-biscuit who hangs around outside Co-ops laughing at pensioners and trying to impress girls with weird eyebrows. This is the type of teen who goes on Jeremy Kyle for a paternity test and a free bargain bucket meal. If your son ever turns up with one of these creatures in tow (or, worse, becomes one) write him out of the will and rent out his room.

Zits

Sods Law (or Karma) says that teenage lads will suffer an outbreak of pus-ridden zits when they least want them, like on a date with Courtney (who drops the u and the y and adds an e) from up the road and that’s not all she drops if you get my drift? One word, people.

Sabotage.

‘What’s that sweetie? You’ve run out of Clearasil and Lynx?’

‘Oh my God! How did that happen?’

Gale_Henry

You know it makes sense.

This ‘ere A to Z is based on my own experiences as a mother, sister and observer with poetic license thrown in. Obviously, not all teenage boys are into girls, gaming or vampires but that’s another post, eh Bro?

Free Image via Creative Commons

Image Via Creative Commons By H. J. Hickman

Image Via Creative Commons by Caligvla at English Wikipedia

Public Domain Image