kids

Both of Stephanie's children have autism. But their diagnoses were starkly different.

It’s been more than five years since my daughter, Abigail, was first diagnosed with autism. For my son, Arthur, he received his diagnosis in December last year.

In that time, our family has been through many ups and downs, but the one thing I can confidently say is that autism is well and truly a spectrum.

Abigail is non-verbal and has the developmental age of a two-year-old despite being seven.

She’s quite reclusive but can often be found jumping around and screaming happily while clutching a Peppa Pig toy. In public, she gets up close to strangers and has no concept of personal space or stranger danger.

What life is like with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Post continues after video.

My son, Arthur, on the other hand, is four and still uses a dummy.

While it’s an impediment to his speech, it’s a sensory item that he needs. If you take the dummy away, he has violent meltdowns where he’ll punch and kick the person nearest to him, usually me.

We go out regularly as a family, but the behaviours of Abigail and Arthur mean people often stare with judgemental looks. Strangers don’t see their behaviours as symptoms of autism, they just see two misbehaved kids.

I am constantly amazed and inspired by the challenges they both overcome every day, but life in public can be very draining at times when those around you don’t see what you see.

Life prior to Abigail’s diagnosis was very different. My husband worked full-time while I studied part-time and we had plans to go travelling and have more children in the future. At that stage, Abigail was just like every other child her age, meeting all her developmental milestones.

two children with autism
"It’s been more than five years since my daughter, Abigail, was first diagnosed with autism. For my son, Arthur, he received his diagnosis in December last year." Image: Supplied.
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It wasn’t until she was just about to turn two that we began to notice differences in her behaviour. She had some trouble with her speech and had started to pull on her ears.

Suspecting that she might have some sort of hearing problem, we took her to see a specialist who said that her hearing was fine. From there, we took her to see a paediatrician who diagnosed her with autism on the spot.

It was such a shock to receive an autism diagnosis that day and looking back now, it’s all a bit of a blur. We were immediately given forms to fill out and referrals to see therapists. To say the process at the start was overwhelming would be an understatement.

Suddenly there were appointments to regularly go to and so much paperwork to keep up with. But throughout it all, no one could tell us if our little girl was going to be OK. The future we had imagined for her had suddenly evaporated and we had no way of knowing what the long-term impacts of her diagnosis would be.

two children with autism
"While it can be daunting and overwhelming receiving an autism diagnosis for your child, there is such a relief that comes with it being given answers." Image: Supplied.
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Arthur’s diagnosis last year was starkly different to Abigail’s. While Abigail was given a diagnosis on the spot, Arthur’s eventual diagnosis took months.

Prior to his diagnosis, he had started to display similar behaviour traits to Abigail, but to different degrees. He walked on his toes and had trouble making eye contact, poor social skills and obsessive behaviours.

However, the behaviours that were most telling at that time were his meltdowns and self-harming tendencies that went beyond what was normal for a two-year-old.

I began mentioning these things to family, friends and medical professionals, who all said he was fine and that he’d grow out of whatever “phase” he was in.

two children with autism
"In the time Mary has been with us, Abigail has learnt how to play with Arthur and other children." Image: Supplied.

It was then that I learnt to trust my instincts because as parents, we know our children best. Something didn’t feel right so I decided to pursue it.

After countless appointments with various health professionals, we were finally given answers about what was going on with my son.

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While it can be daunting and overwhelming receiving an autism diagnosis for your child, there is such a relief that comes with being given answers. I can’t emphasise enough how critical early intervention for children with autism is.

Since receiving the diagnoses for Abigail and Arthur, we’ve worked closely with SDN Children’s Services to ensure they both get the best start in life by developing their communication, social and life skills.

two children with autism
"As a mum, it’s a beautiful thing to see after so many years of the two not going near one another." Image: Supplied.

In the time we have been with SDN, Arthur’s language and social skills have improved while his tantrums have reduced. For Abigail, she’s receives SDN children’s therapies from home with Occupational Therapist Mary.

In the time Mary has been with us, Abigail has learnt how to play with Arthur and other children, something that many children with autism struggle with. As a mum, it’s a beautiful thing to see after so many years of the two not going near one another.

For our family, it’s the small wins in life that we cherish. I am inspired every day by my kids and what they accomplish, but what they overcome cannot be achieved alone.

Finding the right support for your child’s unique needs can be hard, but when you do, the progress you see is incredible. We are so grateful we found them.

With the support of family, friends and services like SDN Children’s Therapies, Stephanie shows that care and assistance can help you overcome any curveballs life throws your way.

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