On Friday, my 21-year-old amazing son, Rian, was officially diagnosed with Autism. I always knew that Rian was different and wonderful, right from when he was a baby. Throughout his primary and secondary school years I had many conversations with teachers about Rian’s behaviour. I even had him privately assessed twice. This highlighted dyslexia and borderline attention deficit disorder. I started to question my parenting style and as an educator became ever more frustrated with not getting to the bottom of Rian’s complex symptoms.
Rian became less sociable and his communication decreased as he headed towards his mid-teens. He avoided at all cost any social situation that meant he’d have to communicate with others.
His main focus is football; he’s a mean left-footed defender and can tell you everything you need to know about Arsenal. He plays for a local team on Sundays and takes part in the weekly 5k Park Run on a Saturday.
He’s also an expert in technology and can help you with anything ICT related!
On Friday, whilst we were with the consultant who was giving his professional expertise, I tried to remain grounded and fix my ‘anchor’. But I just burst into tears. In the evening I reflected on the work of Brene Brown, who talks passionately about ‘the power of vulnerability’, in short how at times we should show vulnerability and why this is good for our mind, body and soul. As a professional others think we’re superhuman! I think it’s helpful for others to know that professionals do indeed have challenges in life.
On Friday my thoughts were on Rian and how as a family we’re going to support him with his confidence, communication and long-term independence.
The first thing is to focus on Rian’s strengths: he is selflessly kind, loyal and has an amazing smile. This year he attended his football club’s end of year awards ceremony – a very big decision for him, which must have been incredibly daunting as he struggles in social situations. His team voted him ‘Players’ Player’ and his coach said that he should be playing professionally! To receive this accolade from his teammates meant a lot to Rian.
Autism or not, as human beings there is too much focus on what we can’t do and how we should behave to fit in to society, which can actually lead to people not being themselves! This can have an impact on our mind, body and souls.
Make a list of your strengths and qualities and ask family, friends and colleagues to do the same. You are unique, amazing and special!
Focus on your strengths and just be you!
For you Rian! Ooh Child! You are loved and admired!
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