Winning The Race..

marathonI originally wrote this is a post on my Facebook Page and decided to post it here as well so that I could find it at a later date if I ever wanted to read it again .

While I was away, I spent some time with a lady who pretty much helped raise me. She is my Mum’s best friend and her husband went to school with my Dad so we all go back a VERY long way. She has known me my entire life and has always put REALLY good things into my life.

Well anyway, last week, I sat opposite her in a beautiful cafe having afternoon tea which turned into dinner, on the water one night – just the two of us – and we talked and talked and talked about EVERYTHING and nothing. We laughed, we joked and I cried.

I cried a LOT!

I sobbed about decisions that I’ve made recently, I expressed regret at pushing certain people out of my life and also lamented keeping some others in longer than I should have. I worried aloud that I was screwing my kids up and told her how much I hated myself for becoming a yelling, emotional, basket case of a mother. I told her that I didn’t know who I was anymore and wished I could go back about 12 months in time to have a do-over.

And she continued to listen without judgment and allowed me to get it all out.

I cried a LOT more still, and then after I’d sobbed my heart out to her she offered me an extremely sound piece of advice that I took away with me and have been drawing on it almost every day since.

She said:

“Fiona, we are all running our own race. Some of us cruise along at an even pace and appear to be taking everything in our stride while others, like you, feel as though they are constantly running uphill in the wrong direction all the while struggling for breath and wondering if you’ll even make it out alive. And that’s sometimes just our own perception because the reality is that everyone struggles. But sometimes your race may actually BE tougher and more gruelling than other peoples but that’s only ever going to be a seasonal thing.

But the beauty of having our own individual race is that although the finish line comes earlier for some people (we were talking about the passing of my Dad and her son), there is no-one else in YOUR race so there’s only ever going to be one winner and NO loser”.

She continued:

“The other people in your life – the ones who run alongside you – are not in the same race as you. They are running their OWN race with their own challenges and their finish line may come before or after yours but remember that you are not supposed to get the same results or finish times as those people.
Their race is not YOUR race.
You will never know when the finish line is ahead so all you can do is strap on your joggers, keep your mind and body as healthy as possible and keep running. You WILL reach the end of your race at the exact time that you’re supposed to and you will come first in your race. YOU WILL WIN because this is a race you cannot lose.”

And there you have it. Her words have helped me SO much that I just thought I’d share them here in the hope that she can touch another life like she did mine.

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Chinese Whispers..

She leaned over, cupped her hand around her mouth and started to whisper into my ear, but for the fourth time in a row, my friend couldn’t get any words our due to the giggles that kept overtaking her. After taking a few deep breaths and composing herself, she tried again. “Frogs in frocks lick spoons” she whispered before exploding into even greater fits of giggles. Screen Shot 2014-01-04 at 7.46.04 pm

I looked at her and joined in the laughter realising just how stupid this game of Chinese whispers had gotten. I was last in the line and it was my job to try to figure out what the original whisperer had said. I had NO idea!

It was in the early 1990’s and I was in my early teens. I was at an Easter Camp with my church’s youth group and the idea of the game was to find a really bizzarro bible verse and whisper it along 9 or 10 people to see what we came up with at the end. The original verse here was: Proverbs 19:25 ‘Flog a mocker and the simple will learn prudence’.

As you can see – the end result wasn’t even CLOSE to the original phrase. In fact, it really no longer made any sense at all! Sure, there were parts of it that were similar to the original, and the phonetics were close but the gist couldn’t be more different. It had taken on a whole new meaning that wasn’t even related to the original phrase and it had therefore become laughable and ridiculous.

But imagine if I took that whisper as gospel, and I became convinced that the bible did in fact have a lot of verses about frogs who liked to dress up in drag and lick utensils?! Imagine if I was SO convinced that what I’d heard was correct that I started to pass that information onto other people and try to convince them that as strange as it sounded- it was correct BECAUSE I’D HEARD IT WITH MY OWN EARS!

Stupid when you put it like that isn’t it?

But that’s exactly what happens with gossip. Someone hears something, they miss maybe a few vital facts so they substitute them with a few made up ones of their own –that seem likely enough to be believable– and then relay that information to another friend. That friend then does the same thing but then adds even more information based on what someone ELSE told them –or what they have observed themselves– and pass THAT on. And so on and so on and so on.

Which brings me to my point.

Most people know by now that we have withdrawn our boys from their old school and that we have left our church. Most people have probably heard some version of the events through various sources and channels but there are only a very small amount of people who have heard any of this from us.
Yes, I told other parents in the playground that my boys weren’t coming back next year when they wished us a good holiday and said “See you next year” but there are only a select few who know the reasons behind our decisions. Other than that, we have barely spoken of these events to anyone.

Therefore, there are only a very small number of people who know the full truth and those people are friends who we know 100% that we can trust.

So it surprises me that I am still getting phone calls and text messages and emails asking us if “such and such” really happened. And it leaves me speechless when I am told “So and so said that you said this and I want to know if that’s really what happened?”

Seriously. It continues to amaze me.

The things that I have been accused of supposedly doing, and the fictitious conversations that I have been dragged into are all Chinese whispers people.

I can say without reservation that I did NOT have a screaming match with anyone. I have not gone on bitching rants running down anyone in leadership in either organisation and I definitely have not created and spread lies about either of them at all.  In fact, I don’t even have any type of conversation about the school OR the church because that’s not who we are.

Bottom line is – unless you heard it from Paul or myself- there is probably a lot of frogs in frocks licking spoons going on.

If you know what I mean 😉

I apologise if this post has come across as anything other than my original intent – to use this public platform to categorically deny any accusations against us and to request that if you know us personally and you hear something- remember that those who gossip are really telling you more about themselves than they are about the subject of their stories.

Fi x


I am the mother…

This post was originally written 3 years ago -hence the ages of the children being younger.

  • I am the mother who sent her child to school sans his jacket on a cool spring morning and watched him shiver as he bravely walked in to school.
  • I am the mother who forgot to put her daughter’s school hat back in the car thus causing her to receive a uniform infringement.
  • (And the mother who can’t work out why a 10-year-old is not capable of doing this herself *ahem*)
  • I am the mother who fed her children cake for breakfast because she forgot to buy bread.
  • I am the mother of the 4-year-old boy who threw the tantrum of the century in the school car park this morning.
  • I am also the mother who glared at the other parents who were rubbernecking and tut-tutting at her child as she picked him up and threw him over her shoulder to keep him safe from the oncoming traffic…
  • and the mother who would do it again in a heartbeat.
  • I am the mother who survives on very little sleep and a lot of caffeine.
  • I am the mother who tries to do too much sometimes.
  • I am also the mother who sees what everyone else does for their children and fights the feelings of inadequacy that wash over her in tidal waves.
  • I am the mother who often pulls her hair out in sheer frustration because she is unable to remember a lot of important things that need to be done, due to the stress levels that are constantly rising at this time of the year.
  • I am the mother who finds more grey hairs every time she looks in the mirror.
  • I am the mother who keeps chewing gum in her glove box at all times so that she can hand them to kids who “forgot” to clean their teeth on the way to school.
  • I am the mother who rarely sorts her washing  *Gasp*
  • I am the mother who is fluent in sarcasm but knows that she shouldn’t use it as often as she does.  Especially on her children who don’t understand it.
  • I am the mother  who sometimes buys treats and hides them in the house because she is tired of sharing everything else that she owns and wants just one thing for and ONLY her.
  • I am the mother who owns 2 diaries and a calendar in the attempt to become more organised but has misplaced them all  :/
  • I am the mother with the short attention span who often really struggles to focus due to her constant sleep deprived state.
  • I am the mother who really wishes she could toughen up a bit and not get so hurt by other people’s words.
  • I am the mother who definitely thinks that exercise is overrated. Come and live in this house and try to be idle with my kids around. Not possible.
  • I am the mother who wishes that she didn’t comfort eat so often.
  • I am the mother who would rather be accused of talking too much then be the kind of person that you need to draaaaaaaaaaag a conversation out of. This is who she is. Like it or leave .
  • I am the mother who really wishes that school went until 5pm and that homework didn’t exist. She is exhausted from spending twenty minutes just trying to get her son to sit at the table and another 20 minutes convincing him to pick up the pencil!
  • I am the mother who secretly loves watching pre-school tv shows and misses them now that her baby has started school.
  • I am the mother who still cries at least once a week because she misses her Dad even though we lost him over 4 years ago.
  • I am the mother who is unable to eat just one grape. The grapes HAVE to be eaten in pairs. One on each side of the mouth. (Hmmm, wonder where Harley gets his quirks from?)
  • I am the mother who gets cranky when she’s not taken seriously. I may not have a fancy degree but I know my children better than anybody else on this earth and that should account for something…
  • I  am the mother that rearranges other people’s cutlery drawers when she visits their homes. It must go in the same order that they are laid on the table : Fork, Spoon, Knife. She doesn’t cope if they are different 🙂 And incidentally,  I am the mother who didn’t develop OCD tendencies until she was thrust in the world that is ASD and the stress that goes along with it!

However:

  • I am also the mother who would move heaven and earth just to make her children smile.
  • I am the mother who gets to witness MANY achievements and successes in her children’s lives and is finds joy in the smaller things because for us they are HUGE!
  • I am the mother who is convinced that her children will go higher and grow stronger than a lot of people give them credit for due to the handful of people that DO believe in them and their go-get- ‘em attitudes.
  • I am the mother who is thankful that God is daily giving her more and more insight into their little worlds so that she can understand them just that little bit more.
  • I am the mother who would some days like to hang up her hat and resign. Or at least have a couple of weeks paid leave. Several times a year.The mother who didn’t read the fine print before putting her hand up and volunteering to do this job BUT the mother who doesn’t walk away from somethings that she’s started until she sees it to completion.
  • I am the mother who often spends her own birthday money on her children because she wants to bless them as they bless her by just being themselves.
  • I am the mother who cannot for the life of her understand what makes her children tick but would give anything to be granted a free pass into their thought processes so she could make sure that their every need is met 100%
  • I am the mother who wants to learn to appreciate the little things.
  • I am the mother who wants to learn NOT to stress on other little things!
  • I am the mother who would take a bullet for her children.
  • Yes this mother is fiercely loyal.
  • I am the mother who often lays awake at night thinking of fun things that she can do with her children on the weekend and willing the hours to tick by so that the weekend can start.
  • I am the mother who wants to join her kids by dancing in the puddles in the rain and skip through supermarket aisles singing but is too afraid of what other people might think.
  • I am the mother who desperately craves understanding and tolerance for her children.
  • I am the mother who worries that she is not doing enough for her children, but also the mother who realises that she only has 2 hands and 24 hours in a day.
  • I am the mother who is learning to love herself just the way God loves her and the one who believes that life is good.
  • Yes. I am THAT mother :D

My children will not fly under any radars and they will not go through life feeling like failures.

 What kind of mother are you?

Imperfectly Perfect.

 

We had been out all day sight-seeing and had come back to the hotel briefly to shower and change ready for dinner. As I kicked off my shoes I noticed a red light that was flashing on the phone on the bedside table. I looked over and saw that Paul had noticed it too. We locked eyes and I noticed the tears forming in his eyes to match the ones forming in my own.

We both knew exactly what it meant but neither of us moved for almost ten minutes. We sat side by side on the corner of the bed holding hands and wiping our own tears away in total silence. We stared at each other, each of us willing the other to walk over to the phone and find out for sure.

We were hoping and praying that it was just a simple benign message from one of the tours that we had planned and not the call that we had been dreading but Paul eventually picked up the handset and punched in the numbers. I saw his face pale at the same time that I heard my Mum’s voice gently saying: “I’m sorry to have to spoil your trip but he’s gone”.

My Dad had passed away during the night and she had been unable to contact us to let us know so left a message instead. I was gutted and wracked with guilt.

Eventually we managed to clean ourselves up and made our way down to dinner where we quietly mingled with our tour group who were unaware of how much our world had just been turned on it’s head.

It was Saturday the 24th February 2008 and Paul and I were on a business retreat in Queenstown New Zealand through his work along with other co-workers and their wives.

Paul was the one who had planned the whole trip and organised all the activities – he was needed and we decided that we would keep our news to ourselves so as to not ruin everyone else’s holiday. We only had 2 days left and Mum told us to stay on because the funeral would take that long to plan anyway.

I barely slept a wink that night. I tossed and turned and my brain just would not stop. I worried about how I was going to tell the children. They adored their Granddad and Harley often asked if Granddad was over his cancer yet as though it were a common cold. Harley was 3 and not yet diagnosed and Lucas was still a baby. We made the decision not to tell Paul’s Mum who was staying with the children back home in Australia because somehow we instinctively knew that Harley was so sensitive to even the most subtle of changes in his caregivers.

I worried that the children would somehow blame me for abandoning them and I knew that I’d have to be extremely careful in how I chose to broach the subject with them once I returned home again. I remember looking over at Paul as he slept soundly and envied his restful state. I’d spent most of the night churning over all the different possible scenarios in my head trying desperately to figure out which direction to head in.

I opted not to go down to breakfast with the rest of the group the next morning, but told Paul that I needed to go for a walk to clear my head. It was a cool morning and I decided that the fresh brisk air would do me the world of good. I rugged up and stepped outside.

As I walked along I heard a guitar strumming softly in the distance and as I turned a corner I noticed a lady sitting on some stairs humming quietly along to her guitar and I was intrigued.

She looked up at me and smiled and it was then that I noticed that she was sitting in the doorway of one of the most beautiful and quaint old churches that I’ve ever seen.  It was perfectly nestled into the streetscape and surrounded by gorgeous rolling snow-covered hills and I immediately felt an overwhelming peace and comfort wash over me . At that moment, I had perfect clarity of mind for the first time since receiving that call. A lady who introduced herself as Janet came and took me gently by the arm ushering me inside the building and placed a warm mug of tea in one of my hands and a freshly baked scone in the other. She sat me down and introduced me to a small gathering of people who were from England, Scotland and another Australian.

I soon found out that this church was not like any other church that I had ever been in but was more of a ministry to backpackers and travelers and the like. It was a café setting and an outreach to people who were hurting, lost and troubled.

I must have looked like a hobo wandering the streets at a ridiculous hour of the morning in a too big parka that belonged to my husband and dirty denim jeans and sneakers. But I’m sure that I fitted their usual clientele stereotype perfectly!

I was welcomed in, nurtured and somehow these people knew exactly what it was that I needed. I was hugged, listened to and valued and I hadn’t told a single person that I’d lost my Dad only hours earlier.

I stayed a while chatting and sipping my tea until gradually we all started to leave one by one. As I got up to leave myself, I was hugged by several people and was handed a bible (which I still have) with an inscription inside the front cover that reads: ‘Blessings from Vineyard Queenstown, be blessed in Christ’s name’.

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Every time I look at this bible now, I am reminded of how God reached out to me in one of my most painful moments. It is a constant reminder that He will always provide me with just what I need exactly when I need it. This tiny little non-denominational and non-confrontational welcoming church serves as a constant memory of God’s grace and mercy and is a promise that He will always equip me to deal with the children that he has blessed me with.

He gives me the grace I need to face challenges that my human mind is baffled by. He provides a way out when things look hopeless and He promises that He will never leave or forsake me regardless of how ridiculous life’s circumstances may appear at the time. I don’t believe that this amazing experience was just merely a co-incidence. I truly believe that God met me in my darkest hour and that He provided just what I needed at that time. This chance encounter was all in HIS perfect timing. I was meant to walk past that church that February morning just as I was meant to be blessed with my amazing though challenging children.

Everything is in His perfect plan whether I understand it or not.

Little did I realise at the time that losing my Dad would be the beginning of a very long chain of events that have all helped to shape me into the kind of mother that my children need.

Imperfect by the world’s standards but perfect for what God has in His master plan.

Dear 17 year old me..

 

Dear 17 year old me,

You will eventually learn to like your name. You will never love it but you will one day actually tell people your real name when they ask. You think it’s funny now when you tell people it’s Beryl and giggle at their surprised faces, but it will get old fast.

So, do you see those people that you’re sharing the school playground with? Yeah, well you don’t have to be friends with all of them after school finishes for good next year. Some of them you will lose touch with and you won’t care at all, but others will always hold a special place in your heart and you will reconnect with them when you’re all grown up. They will mean more to you then than they do now because age brings new perspectives.

And your parents? You think they’re old and don’t understand you but you really need to know just how much they * do* love you. I mean REALLY love you. So much more than you could ever realise. One day you will have children of your own and only then will you actually “get” it.

After you leave school, you will move a long way from home because you think you know better than anyone but guess what? You don’t.

You will get yourself into some mighty fine messes and your parents will dig you out every.single.time because they love you that much. You are stubborn though and it will take you a long time to realise this and thank them for it.

After spending another 2 years doing some really stupid stuff like jumping from job to job and hanging out with the wrong crowd you will eventually tire of the rebellious lifestyle.  But do you remember the story about the prodigal son in the bible? Yeah, well good, because that’s kinda who you become.

You will eventually go home with your tail between your legs and move home again until you get back on your feet. And your parents take you in with open arms and love on you and encourage you to right your broken relationship with Jesus. It will be the best thing that you will ever do.

Your Dad will teach you that if you have God in your life; anything else is just icing and that you need to look to Jesus for happiness because a man will never provide what only God can.

He will teach you that all men and women are flawed by their human-ness and will ultimately fail you at one time or another because of this, but that God will never let you down.

You will never forget this and there will be times in your life that you hold fast to this teaching because people will let you down but you will only be disappointed – not destroyed.

You will marry and it won’t always be smooth sailing, but you chose to put your hope in God so you’ll survive every storm intact.

You will have 3 children and they will bless you, frustrate you and complete you all at once.

But it won’t be easy. Two of your children will be boys and they will both have autism. You will fall apart at first but surprise yourself by picking yourself up and carrying on despite your heartbreak and lack of faith in yourself.

You will lose friends once the news gets out and it will hurt, but all will not be lost because much better and more loyal friends will replace the void that they left.

You will experience great loss in the death of your beloved Dad, great heartache in watching your children struggle and great pain as you endure a lot of personal health issues but you will survive them all and come out a stronger person at the other side.

Eventually, you will learn that you can find happiness and beauty in the small everyday things if you just stop long enough to notice them.

Autism will give you the ability to appreciate things that other people take for granted and bless you with the desire to be a better parent.

One day, you’ll read this letter back and you’ll smile, you’ll laugh and you’ll wipe away stray tears that inevitably fall, but you will know that you have done the best that you can with that which you have been given.

And you will continue to rejoice through both hard times and good because you KNOW that life is what you make of it.

Love 37-yr-old you xxx

If you’re new here – read this first..

First of all, welcome.

Sincerely.

I’m glad you have dropped by my blog for whatever reason. 🙂

A little about the history of this blog: I have blogged previously at 2 other WordPress blogs and originally began blogging about my family back in April of 2010.

During that time I was Freshly Pressed and gained a sizeable number of email subscribers, blog followers and daily hits. But one day it occurred to me that none of this was important to me.

I realised that I really didn’t give a toss about those statistics, but what I found myself placing more importance on, was being true to myself, protecting my children’s rights and writing from my heart even if it wasn’t going to get noticed. I realised that I didn’t want to write about what everyone else seemed to be writing about and I wasn’t really interested in becoming a big-time blogger.  (Plus, I didn’t have the time to put into promoting my blog or blogging regularly anyway!)

I wanted to go back to why I originally started blogging – to create a place where I would be able to gain the therapeutic benefits that writing brings me, and also so that I could share our story with other families who may be walking along similar paths.

I have learned a LOT since my very first blog post and I admit that when I started out, I was INCREDIBLY naive. I now realise that:

  • Not everyone on the internet is kind.
  • Having a child with a diagnosis is not always enough in common to cement friendships with other autism parents.
  • There will always be people out there who will disagree with you and they will not be backwards in coming forward with their views and opinions.
  • Some of them will get personal.
  • Being too honest will open you up to cyber-bullying and may get you accused of playing the “poor me” card too often.
  • You have to decide to either let them win or refuse to be bullied into defeat.
  • Some people on the internet hide behind their computers and write things that they would probably never say to your face.
  • Children don’t deserve to be ridiculed because of decisions and choices that their parents have made.
  • I am extremely emotional and make too many decisions with my heart and not enough with my head.
  • I am not like everyone else and I march to the beat of a very different drum. And that is completely and entirely ok.

So in saying that – welcome to “Wonderfully Wired version 2”.

This time I will be refraining from posting photographs of my children. (Yes I realise that the internet has things called caches and our digital footprint already exists) but I have no control over that. I do however, have control of what I post from now on.

To begin with, this blog will be mostly made up of a collection of my most favourite posts and the ones that I am most proud of. So those of you who followed the older blog (which is now deleted) will have a sense of de ja vu when reading some of these posts. I will be starting to add newer posts as I feel inspired sometime in the new year and when life has returned to ‘our version’ of normal.

Hopefully you’ll all join me to share in the trials and triumphs that 2014 will bring.

Fi x

Please note that the URL of this blog has changed to http://www.wonderfullywiredblog.wordpress.com so if you had the old URL (same but without the word ‘blog’ in it) you will need to change it in your bookmarks.
Also – if you had an email subscription or “followed” the old blog via WordPress – you will also need to re-follow or re-enter your email address in order to remain on the receiving list for new posts.

Thanks x

10 ways to spot autism in a crowd…

I am often asked the question: “What does autism look like” or “How can I tell if a child has autism” and the simple answer to those questions is “You can’t”. Because autism doesn’t have a particular ‘look’ but is detected by observing behaviours NOT appearance.

Autism is often referred to as the silent disability because there is no wheelchair or defining facial features to help identify it at first glance.

But if you know what you’re looking for – its not as difficult to recognise as you might think. It’s important to me to share this because the more that society is taught about differences – the greater the acceptance and tolerance levels toward children and adults on the spectrum for the future generations. So I are condensed a lot of information here into ten short points that may indicate an autism spectrum disorder.

The first rule of thumb in possibly identifying autism is;

ALWAYS GIVE THE BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT.

Whenever you see a child who appears to be odd or quirky or if their behaviour is not quite right-even if you can’t put your finger on the possible reason or see any other indicators of a disability, assume that there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

For example: If you see an older child having a tantrum in public then it’s usually safe to assume that there is something else going on here. Generally, kids are too embarrassed to pitch a full blown tantrum past the ages of 5 because they have enough self-awareness to know that people will stare at them. But not in the autistic child because often they are simply unable to contain their emotional and sensory overload and it is no longer a matter of choosing whether or not to hold it in.

That’s not to say that older children don’t have tantrums, but in an older child, a tantrum in public is usually much more subtle. These tantrums are designed to get their own way without attracting attention to themselves. Like kicking a shop display, or mumbling insults under their breath or sulking and refusing to do what they’re told. But not flailing and screaming in front of dozens of onlookers.

And in an autistic child, what may start as a silly little tantrum can quickly escalate into a full blown meltdown if they are unable to make themselves understood. Usually something has triggered this tantrum and if its not nipped in the bud it can get really messy really fast. Autistic children cannot control these meltdowns and are unaware that they are causing a scene and giving into them wouldn’t end the yelling whereas in a tantrum – it would.

But back to spotting autism….

Let’s imagine that you are in a playground and you know that there is an autistic child playing in there but have no idea which one it is. What would be the first clue that you would look for?

For me, spotting that child would be as simple as looking for the one who seems to be on the outer.

1. BEING ALOOF:

The child who either plays alone or is trailing along behind the other kids desperately wanting to be included. It’s often wrongly assumed that autistic kids don’t care for other kids but often it’s just their underdeveloped social skills and lack of social intuition that are holding them back. Most of the time they desperately want friends but don’t know how to initiate conversations or interact with other children. These kids don’t read body language or facial expressions and may not understand if another child gives them the ‘leave me alone’ face. Children on the autism spectrum learn by mimicking their typically developing peers and you would be looking for the child who is ‘following’ rather than leading the group.

However – in some of the higher functioning children (Aspergers Syndrome especially) the child may actually be the ‘life of the party’ and come across as obnoxious, precocious, loud, inflexible and unreasonable. But it’s important to remember that this is not a character flaw – it’s indicative of their under developed social awareness. They just want to be included but don’t understand how to do this in a socially acceptable manner. Either way – the child has a definite “quirkiness” about them.

2: REPETITIVE PLAY

Children with autism may also indulge in a lot of repetitive play. They may sit and watch the spinning of a wheel for a long time or continue to retrace their steps and repeat the same actions over and over again never seeming to tire of the monotony. That’s because children with autism enjoy getting the same result every time and take great comfort from being able to predict the outcome in an otherwise unpredictable world. These kids may also group items together or line them up. Example: rocks in a line in a sandpit or leaves sorted into colour shades.

3. EYE CONTACT

A child who has autism will rarely make eye contact with strangers or with other children. They can sometimes appear to be ignoring you but this is rarely the case. I’ve been told by autistic individuals that they are unable to look at people when they’re spoken to because it confuses them and they have to stop listening in order to look. They say that looking in people’s eyes is frightening unless they know , love and trust the person talking. Often times a child with autism may become mute when a stranger speaks to them because they cannot form the correct words whilst their brain is in freak-out mode.

4. TOUCH

If a child is in fact on the autistic spectrum, they may react if they are touched, hugged or accidentally brushed up against in a playground setting. They may strike out at another child who playfully pushes, taps or attempts to cuddle them as they sense that their personal space is being invaded. Because of this, they can wrongly be labelled as ‘rough’ ‘mean’ or ‘aggressive’ but really it’s just their self-protection mode kicking in.

Or….a child who under registers stimuli may do the exact opposite and be overly affectionate and not seem to recognise those invisible boundaries that we all have. Either way – the behaviours displayed here in these two scenarios are an indication that there is something bigger going on with that child.

5. UNDERSTANDING VERBAL CUES

These kids struggle to understand and comprehend instructions especially if they’re complex or contain too many steps. So you’re looking for the child who seems to be deaf or ignoring their parents or who doesn’t register that they’ve been spoken to immediately. The child may explode if they are unable to convey their wants and needs to their caregiver and become frustrated if they’re not understood by other children.

6. REPETITION

An autistic child may repeat (and mimic) the phrases that other children use or insert lines from a movie or tv show into a conversation whether it fits or not. This is called echolalia and it is a very common communication tool for children who are developing speech.

7. RULES

If a group of children are playing together and one of them changes the ‘rules’ or starts to play it differently, the autistic child may react with aggression or anger because they are not coping with change and suddenly become frightened at their lack of understanding. Autistic children thrive on rules and routines and require them to function peacefully.

8. SENSORY STIMULII

A child with autism may severely under or over react to noises, crowds, smells and sights. This is all due to their sensory system either being overloaded or under registering. Most typically developing children won’t notice subtle changes in noise levels or the sun getting brighter but you can bet your bottom dollar that the over sensory child will be the first to react negatively.

9. UNUSUAL COMPASSION

Children with autism usually always have an affinity with nature and with animals. They seem to have somewhat of a connection that most of us just don’t understand. The autistic child may be the one who prefers to lay down in the dirt with a dog or finds a lizard underneath a rock. They may also become upset and inconsolable if another child steps on an insect and go into bat for the poor defenseless ants that are crawling up your leg!

Every single autistic individual that I have met has got a very gentle nature and a sensitivity to all forms of life that most of us could really only dream of.

10. DANGER AWARENESS

The last thing to look for is the child who has no apparent fear of danger or consequence. And this goes beyond the normal ‘rough and tumble’ boy stuff. These kids have an underdeveloped sense of caution and just don’t see the risks that most other children would instinctively notice. Look for the child climbing up the flying fox or jumping off the top level of the climbing structure or – *gasp* running onto a highway to get to the shiny object that has caught their eye over the other side.

Autism really is beautiful. It is almost magical and it is extremely rewarding to live with. But how do I know this? I and the mother of two boys who have autism and they have taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined.

Because of them, I now appreciate the smaller things that most folk often take for granted. I am learning to look for beauty in the most unlikely places and I no longer take anything at face value.

Let me encourage you all to dig deeper, invest into those “different” people in society and you will always find that it was more than worth the effort.