The last few weeks have been really hard for all of us, and even more so for you. I hate seeing how anxious you are every single day at the moment.
Your autism seems to be even more challenging for you than usual.
I wish you could explain to me what’s going on inside your mind so I can help you.
Why is it that even just the sight of your brother upsets you so much at the moment?
Why is your first reaction is to start crying and hitting yourself over and over, even when he’s taken out of sight?
We’re doing our best to try and make your environment as stress-free as possible. It’s difficult. Your brother lives with us too, and he has his own challenges to deal with. Somehow we need to find a way we can all get along again.
Then in the midst of all this, last Sunday was one of the best days I’ve ever had with you.
I had such a great time I had to write it down so that we never forget it.
It was a sunny, crisp autumn day, so I thought it would be a good idea to take you for a walk along the river. If we managed to get that far then we could carry on to the park. It would be some well needed time outside of the house, a chance to get some fresh air, some time away from your brother.
The last walk we’d taken together a couple of weeks ago hadn’t gone to plan. The noise from the motorbikes that went past were too much for you, and you started to hit yourself in the street. You shocked a few people walking past that day. I don’t think they could understand what was going on. Seeing a 7-year-old hit himself is not something most people are used to, but that’s ok, it’s what you felt you needed to do in that moment.
It was my fault anyway, not yours. I should have been more prepared and brought your ear defenders with me. We’d had so many good walks over the summer without them, I forgot how much you need them sometimes.
On Sunday, I made sure you had them on, and we set off together, hopeful that today’s walk would be a good one.
We walked down the street next to our house, kicking the recently fallen leaves along the pavement, laughing all the way. You love doing that, especially now they are starting to be more crisp, as they make a great noise as you kick them. You kicked them in front of you for a while, then decided you had to kick them all off the pavement into the gutter. I loved playing this game with you and seeing that huge smile on your face.
Every so often you stopped and leant up against a car. This happens a lot whenever we go for a walk. You’ve always liked looking in the windows and tapping on them.
Sometimes you’d turn and look at me as if to say “Come on Dad, open the door.”
But not every car is our car, I can’t just get in and take you for a drive. I know how much you love going for a drive and listening to music, but today we’re making the most of the sunshine.
On our route, every house on that street has a front garden, which presents huge temptation for you.
I know you too well. I can sense your eyes light up as you spot the small stones they have on their drives. You’re desperate to scoop them up in your hands and play with them. Sometimes I’m too slow and you manage to get a handful.
I never want to stop you having fun, I know just how much you love to throw stones around. The satisfaction you get in juggling them around in your hands before flicking or throwing them away. It’s a real sensory need you can’t seem to control whenever you see them.
But parked cars, house windows, and throwing stones just don’t mix. So I have to encourage you to reluctantly let them slip through your fingers. You comply quite happily, but you’ll also try again a few seconds later when you see the next patch of stones.
It’s not just the stones that are a big attraction for you, there’s also the flowers and plants you try to behead whenever you can get close enough.
Unfortunately, other people might not understand your overwhelming need to rip them off. They’ve spent a lot of time, effort and money on their gardens, and wouldn’t appreciate you doing that.
I know you’re not being destructive or naughty. You love feeling the petals on your lips, chewing them, and flicking them away after you’re done. But this isn’t our garden, where I can let you get away with it. Whenever you’re too quick for me, I silently hope that no-one is looking out of their window, catching you with the head of their roses in your hands.
When we reached the end of the street I made you hold my hand for a few seconds as we crossed the road. I know it’s uncomfortable for you, that you want to pull away, but I need to keep you safe from any cars that might come past. You’re not aware of traffic and roads, or how dangerous they can be.
You’d happily gallop across the road, not once thinking to stop and look, danger doesn’t enter your head.
But that’s ok. One day you will, and until then I’ll always be there to hold your hand and keep you safe
Once we made it across the road we were able to walk along the river instead. I could relax for a while then. There’s a wall keeping you away from the water, and a wall the other side, so I don’t have to worry about you running off towards any harm.
You spotted a couple walking along with an ice cream, so you doubled back in their direction. You walked straight at them and reached up to grab their cones
It doesn’t matter to you that it was their ice cream, it never does. Anyone’s ice cream is fair game to you.
They were polite and smiled back at you as I cracked a joke to try and ease any tension they felt, whilst guiding you away from their ice cream.
You’re 7 now, most people would expect you to know you can’t take a strangers ice cream. But you don’t, and that’s fine by me. Your complete innocence makes me smile. One day you will understand more, and until that day I’ll happily keep apologising for you
We walked for a while longer. You stopped and gazed over the wall at the river longingly. Every time you see water you want to get in, you always have
ever since you were a baby. Every bit of open water is just a big swimming pool in your eyes, and I know how much you love to swim.
Maybe you were thinking back to the times we’ve been on a boat up and down there. I’ll try and get you back in one again soon I promise
We set off again and walked all the way down to the park, happily flapping away as we went. We took a seat, you on the floor, me on the wall, as you’d found a patch of dried earth and small stones. Finally, you were allowed to play with some stones!
You sat for about 20 minutes, giggling to yourself as you juggled the small stones around in your hand, flicking them away every now and again. I positioned myself so that you threw them towards me, and not the people walking past. They probably wouldn’t have appreciated stones and dirt flying towards them, so I’m happy to let you flick them at me instead.
Suddenly, you looked over to the grass and you were off, sprinting away. I chased after you, wanting to let you be free, but also needing to stay close by just in case. You’re getting big now, and much faster. Daddy’s going to have to get fitter to be able to keep up with you.
Then you stopped and dropped to the floor, something had caught your eye.
The grass had been cut. There were trimmings strewn out everywhere.
You sat down and picked up handfuls of the freshly cut blades. You gave them a quick sniff and threw them up into the sky. You laughed as they floated off in the wind.
I sat with you and we threw grass at each other. I threw it as high as I could, and you watched on with a huge smile. God, I love seeing you smile.
Every few minutes the excitement was too much, and you jumped up, ran around, with me chasing you all the way. Then you’d stop, and drop to the floor again having found a new patch of grass to play with.
After doing this 5 or 6 times you settled down on the hill that looks down to the skate park. You sat there playing with the grass, but this time something else held your attention too. You were fascinated by what was going on below.
There were 4 or 5 children zipping up and down on bikes and scooters, doing jumps on the ramps. You had a constant smile on your face, flicking your attention between the grass and the other children.
I’d love to know what you were thinking in that moment. I wonder if you looked at them and thought about the bike they’ve been trying to teach you to ride at school?
I sat next to you, playing with the grass as well, watching you watch them. We were there for half an hour without moving. I’ve never seen you so taken in by something that wasn’t on a tv or an iPad
One day you’ll be able to go down there and join in. I’ll help you learn how to ride a bike, skate, scoot, whatever it is you want to try, and even give the ramps a go too.
But if all you want to do is watch, that’s ok. I’ll sit right here with you and throw grass cuttings around instead. If doing this for an hour is what makes you happy then that’s fine by me, I’ll be here right next to you, for as long as you want.
When you were ready we got up, chased each other for a bit longer, and headed back towards the river. We went back the way we came, back past more random strangers with ice cream. Back past the parked cars. Back past people’s gardens, full of the temptation of flowers and stones, all the way back home.
All in all we were out for over 2 hours, a smile on your face the whole time. I think this is a new record. It’s one of the best times I’ve had with you, I’m glad you had so much fun.
One day this will just be a regular day. You won’t feel so anxious 24/7, and when that happens you’ll be able to tolerate your brother again, just like you did over the Summer.
One day the world will no longer be such a tough place for you to be in. You’ll be able to tell me what it is you want to do, and we can do them whenever you want.
One day we’ll read this together and smile at how such a simple day together brought us so much joy.