Today is World Autism Awareness Day, and World Autism Awareness Week starts today too. I thought there wouldn’t be a more apt time to talk about Isla, lay her progress down on ‘paper’ as it were, and tell you more about how we’re coping with her diagnosis.
I’m still learning a lot about how to talk about her autism in a way that doesn’t offend people, so if I phrase things wrong, I’m really sorry.
The beginning of February saw Isla start her speech therapy sessions in what is known as intensive interaction – building her speech up from the bottom upwards, mimicking sounds and noises that she would make, like you would with a baby, to encourage her to interact with us; to show her that playing with others is fun. She had 4 sessions of this, and since then, her eye contact has gone from 0-100, and we’re continuing this at home and at nursery. Because she’s looking at us more, she’s able to tell us when she wants things more, and because of that, her speech has started to improve a lot. She’s even saying the last words in sentences now, and for us that’s incredible.
On top of that, we’ve just started Sensory Processing sessions, to encourage her balance (as she’s quite clumsy) and to encourage her fear of certain textures. So far we’ve only had two, but the difference is already noticeable. Perhaps I’m hyper sensitive to it, but she’s dodging a lot more obstacles, and her motor skills are 100x better than before and her awareness is so much better.
It might not seem like an insane amount of progress since October, but to us, it is. In a few days we find out what school has accepted Isla, and we are so excited. We made the decision to go ‘mainstream’ because I wanted Isla to have a proper experience of school. Yes, she’ll have a 1-to-1 tutor, but that’s going to make a huge difference and being a 4 year old, you don’t know the difference between your peers. They don’t see colour, and if they don’t see that if someone doesn’t talk it’s not out of ignorance or rudness, they just accept – and that’s what I’d like for Isla.
I’d be lying if I said either of us has found this easy. I’d be lying if I said I often struggle to get my head around it all, but I know for Isla it’s important to keep strong because she’s going to need us a lot more now and I really am looking forward to seeing how she flourishes with our help and the help of the therapy.
I love that she now dances to music, and that she’ll look at us when she’s trying to say words or if she’s not entirely sure of herself when she’s playing with her numbered cards. I love that she loves kisses, and how excited she gets knowing she’s going to nursery or going shopping – a girl after my own heart. I’m so grateful that she doesn’t mind crowded places, that she quite likes having her hair done and that she loves being tickled – her laugh is honestly the best.
It would be amazing if you could donate. With the money, the NAS are able to set up incredible campaigns to highlight more awareness around autism, and get more of us understanding the ins and outs.
I feel so incredibly lucky to have a supportive family and partner. Particularly Adam, who has accepted Isla like his own, I’m so lucky to have him to lean on when things get a bit too much. And equally, I’m so proud of Isla and how well she’s doing – Onwards and upwards for us. Keep an eye out for my next post for World Autism Awareness Week. (:
Watch The A Word on BBC iPlayer too – so insightful.