Giraffes and Autism – time to say the word!

It’s been over a month since I last got a chance to blog! I remember Jessy being ill one week and then all that Christmas and New Year stuff got in the way. We’ve had an enjoyable festive season. I managed to prepare a Christmas feast and only got stressed out about the roast vegetables which I had forgotten don’t cook properly in the second oven as I haven’t used the second oven since last Christmas! I was still most excited about the home made bread sauce I’ve been making since I was 12 which is the highlight of my Christmas dinner.

My bump has expanded enormously over the last month and the baby’s kicks quite often take me by surprise with how strong they feel. Today it feels a bit like it’s trying to burst through my belly and I’m wondering what on Earth I’ll feel like at the end of this pregnancy! We’ve had a very lazy holiday season. We’ve all eaten far too much chocolate and cheese and the kids have been clocking up enough hours of screen time to make my head spin if I think about it! I’ve been enjoying luxurious lie ins and going to bed far too late. The kids have come away from the screens long enough to do some creative projects. The kids got balloon kits but we’ve struggled to make the balloon animals. Anais decided to use the long stretchy balloons as strings on a cardboard box musical instrument. Jessy got a sock puppet kit for Christmas, but decided to make a monster toy and some clothes for him out of the materials instead. He named him ‘Teddy’.

Teddy

Teddy

I officially marked today as ‘back to normal’ day. It gives us a week to slide back into a more regular routine as Martial Arts, Scouts and Cubs start this week, but Circus Skills and Wood School don’t start until next week. I’m hoping this might be easier for Jessy as he often struggles with the transition from holiday back into our old routine.

Another of Jessy’s anxieties are unexpected plans and trying new activities. This came up a few days ago when we had a last minute invite to go ice skating with friends. Jessy has never been ice skating before and we hadn’t made the plan in advance so he was quite unhappy. At one point it seemed I really wouldn’t be able to persuade him to go but I didn’t want A to miss out so I offered to take him to a friend’s house instead. I don’t really want to go down that route of dealing with his anxiety though so I kept reassuring him that he didn’t have to skate if he didn’t want to and said that I would very much enjoy his company and suggested packing a few activity books. That seemed to help. He must have worked it through in his mind because just before we left when A asked him if he was going to have a go at ice skating he said “oh yeah, of course!” I’m really glad he came because they both had a great time. I was so happy to get outside in the fresh air and be with friends after being cooped up in the house for too long on our own.

Jessy ice skating

Jessy ice skating

Fun on the ice

Fun on the ice

I haven’t written a lot in this blog, about the various issues Jessy deals with for a while. For some reason I’ve been resistant to opening up further about it on here. I’m not sure why because I’m quite open about the process we are going through in other places. I feel like today might be the right day to share a little more. Maybe because it’s the New Year, or maybe just because it’s relevant to what we did today – maybe even because we’ve been so lazy lately I don’t have much else to write about! lol. I first wrote about my emerging thoughts here: https://pinkylucy.wordpress.com/2013/05/21/everything-and-nothing-has-changed/. At the time I felt the need to be vague and talked a lot about giraffes. Needless to say I don’t actually think Jessy might be a giraffe, however, I do think he may be on the autistic spectrum.

In the 8 months or so since I first starting thinking about this idea I’ve had varied responses from people. Some friends found it instantly helped them make sense of Jessy while others completely rejected the idea and didn’t agree at all. He’s certainly not autistic in a glaringly obvious kind of way, however, after reading and researching I was amazed to discover how so many of his quirks and difficulties, and also strengths, are all linked to autism. It was hard at first. I had to come to realise that whether he is or isn’t, he is still the same person, the same wonderful unique person I have always loved. I struggled for months about whether or not to pursue a diagnosis. I eventually decided that ‘knowledge is power’ and that the more I knew, the more choices and options I would have when it came to ways I could help Jessy with some of his struggles. I also feel that it’s sometimes useful to have a short hand when things get a little tricky. Awareness of autism is increasing, and whilst it isn’t something I’d want to use to excuse difficult situations, it can help to explain.

So several months ago I went to my GP with a long typed out list of various Jessy quirks. Many of them I had already discovered were linked to autism and others I didn’t know about but I put them all down. My GP made an instant referral and since then I’ve had a couple of appointments with a very friendly doctor who asked me lots and lots of questions in a couple of interviews. Today was an important day because Jessy went to meet the doctor. Jessy is aware of the process we’re going through and seems comfortable with it. I didn’t get to stay with Jessy while he talked to the doctor which felt a little strange. When my friend went through the process with her son she said a lot of the interaction could be seen through one way glass, but this didn’t happen with Jessy today. They didn’t talk to him for long which makes me wonder if it was very clear one way or the other, but the doctor said it didn’t mean anything so I guess I should listen to him! My personal feeling is that he’s somewhere on the borderline and I don’t think I will be very surprised if the expert opinion falls on either side. What I have learned is that he certainly has a lot of autistic traits and that, so far, the strategies designed to help autistic children do seem to help him with particular issues. Whether or not he gets an official diagnosis the process has helped us both enormously and made our day to day life run a lot more smoothly.

After Jessy’s appointment this morning the children were keen to go into the city centre as they’d spotted an enormous Big Wheel that has been recently erected in Piccadilly Gardens. A is quite afraid of heights but was keen to try the wheel, so in the name of encouraging the conquering of fears we went on. Aside from some initial nervousness she really loved it. Jessy has enjoyed Big Wheels since he was a toddler.

The Big Wheel

The Big Wheel

Excited on the big wheel

Excited on the big wheel

View of Manchester city centre

View of Manchester city centre

Afterwards we headed to Barburrito for lunch which we all love and then went on to the Manchester Museum. A has hit a ‘Museums are boring’ stage, but I did point out that there is so much in the museum that it must be possible to find something of interest! She didn’t seem bored once we were there and we spent a good few hours looking around. Despite going there for years we’ve never been to the animal handling session so we made a special effort to go today and got to stroke a chameleon and a python.

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a chameleon

Stroking a python

Stroking a python

Jessy started back at Cubs tonight and despite a busy day was happy to go, especially as the new woggle he chose arrived today. Here’s to another year with my wonderful little ‘giraffe’.