My name is Jo and I’m a full time mum and housewife. My husband is a secondary school science teacher. We have a son, William, who is 12 and has a diagnosis of severe, classic autism. We also have two daughters, aged 11 and 5, who do not (I hate the term neurotypical!).
Life in our house is a very bizarre mash up of order and chaos. As you can imagine, everything revolves around William and his routines and moods. Ideally is shouldn’t, but in reality it has to.
William was diagnosed at three and a half, after he didn’t start to develop language normally. Well he didn’t develop it at all. Even now, he has great difficulty producing any proper speech sounds as he also has a diagnosis of verbal dyspraxia.
He really is the most charming boy and as you can see from his photograph, he is truly beautiful.
Will has been in specialist education since reception and has been lucky enough to go to two fantastic schools. He is now in Year 8.
I have chosen a Christmas theme for this piece – and I am going back 7 years to when he was in Year 1. Rehearsals were well under way for the school nativity but none of the teaching staff would tell me the part that William was playing in it, other than saying it was ‘an important one’. I just thought he was going to be the Angel Gabriel, because of his blond hair – it was a no-brainer. I didn’t think any more of it.
When the day of the show arrived, I walked into school and was given the programme on the door. I scanned down and couldn’t believe it when he was playing JOSEPH!
I must add here that our boy is not the best at sitting still. Or following instructions. Or wearing costumes. I really could not see how this was going to work. I think as an Autism Parent you do tend to expect the worst, so I sat there bracing myself for Meltdown Central. But no, on he came; dressed up as the most angelic Joseph I have ever seen – complete with full costume and head-dress. My jaw was actually on the floor at this point. Mary was played by one of the more able pupils – he held her hand tightly for the entire time and was unbelievably calm. It was nothing short of a miracle for me. Just a year and a half of a wonderful school and he had already achieved this. I have never been prouder in my life.
Seven years later he is rapidly growing into a young man. He will be 13 in February. We do not know what challenges will follow. We have good days, we have bad days, we have desperate days and days where we truly rejoice. But we have learned to live life one day at a time, learn from the rough days and have hope for the future.