Monday, 18 January 2016
Why I hope I would still have my kids
So when I say to people, "I think three is enough," they look at me as if I'm mad. I have three beautiful children and yes, two of them happen to be autistic. I was sparked into considering the possibility of their non-existence by a recent approval for a Down's Syndrome test.
We got told on Anthony's diagnosis day that it was nothing we did wrong, there was no cure and it's likely genetic which means if we had anymore kids they could also be on the autistic spectrum. If it is genetic then there could be a definitive test for it one day. If that day had been eight years ago I might not have my beautiful kids.
There is often mention of ASD being one of the invisible disabilities. True if you see my kids in a photo you might not tell that two of them are on the autistic spectrum but there is little doubt if you see them operating in life that they are different. Life with them is not the same as life with neurotypical kids, but that doesn't mean that it's not life and a great one at that. We have highs and lows just like everyone else. We have joys and sorrows but just because it's different to how it was expected doesn't mean it's not good.
There always seems a pressure on families to live a perfect life. But even that seems to have become stereotyped if you let it. Look up perfect in the dictionary and it doesn't say 'life living in an expensive house, with a big car, expensive toys and two kids performing excellently at school.' It's not that I enjoy the fact that my kids struggle with things like busy places, school and sensory overloads. And we do try to change some behaviours that hurt or make it difficult to function. But actually perfect means 'complete'. Well my life is totally complete with my family and that includes it's autistic elements as much as our family wide brown eyes, my husbands irritating sense of humour and my occasional bad temper.
What's life if it's not living with and loving one another. I can't imagine how empty it might have been if I'd had a 'test'. As our second son, David is also in the autistic spectrum, I suppose it's possible we wouldn't have had kids at all with a genetic test or prenatal screening available. If society had only shown me some of the difficulties we would have with my children or that they would have, instead of the joy. I may have had a 'career' instead although it was only after having kids that I realised I liked teaching.
If the same society was just a bit more accepting of our neuro diversity, a test may only have been about preparing for our kids. Having all those autism training courses whilst pregnant maybe?
I remember being relieved when our Down's Syndrome test came back as a low probability. I don't honestly know how I would have reacted had it been different. Or how I would have reacted had there been a screening for autism.
They say that once you have kids, you can't imagine life without them. Now I have the experience I feel my life would have been incomplete without them, autism and all. If only society was just a bit more accepting of them and us being complete too.
Our blog - How autism is like our new courtesy car
Our blog - Comments from Steve Silberman on Neurotribes (neuro diversity)
Our blog - The hope I see in the kind acts of children
The Telegraph - Down's Syndrome people risk extinction at hands of science, fear and ignorance