As one door closes, another one opens….Our journey into the world of Autism.
You may not see it at the time but after a while it all falls together, and you realise that whoever, or whatever was looking out for you at that point in time, knew that there were greater things to come.
I am a devoted mum to two boys. One on the spectrum and one neurotypical. Whilst being a mum in any case can be challenging, being a mum to a child on the spectrum has a whole variety of challenges on their own.
Before falling pregnant, my husband and I used to talk about what our children would be when they grew up, and how we’d give them the best start possible by sending them to what we believed were the best schools in the area. We’d strive for excellence in them and always push them towards their goals. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t change William for the world but that doesn’t mean that I’m not worried about his future, how he’ll fit in at school or if people will really understand him as he tries to find his way through life.
Gosh, how everything changes when you then find out your child has an intellectual disability. You go from thinking about all the fun he’ll have at school, his grades, if he’ll be the popular one, the funny and outgoing one, to then just wanting him to simply be happy and have a friend.
The way you look at the world changes in an instant. It’s no longer about getting the best grades and sending him to the best school. It’s simply about acceptance.
As you can imagine, the diagnosis hits hard. I’ll never forget the assessment day when the team of therapists walked in to the room and said those four words…. – Your son has Autism.
Thinking of our then two year old boy, the tears started to stream down my face and the huge overload of information started piling in. The diagnosis was permanent, it was never going away, and we had to somehow sift through the maze of information out there, to try and find the best early intervention for William.
Once William turned three years old and at the crucial age of his learning, it was time to start looking at Kindergartens, Early Learning Programs. We needed to find something that suited him, suited his style of learning but more importantly a place where he would be surrounded by educators that just accepted him for who he was regardless of his diagnosis.
After numerous tours, meeting teachers and going to open days, my husband and I felt we had found the right place to send our son to. We were happy with our decision, so we got the ball rolling with paperwork. Before long, we had an interview booked in where the school would meet William and discuss with us how the year ahead would go.
I was relieved that the interview with the ELC Co-ordinator, myself, and William went well.
She met with William and discussed his needs and the program they offered. She gave us every impression that William would be accepted into their school.
We were excited. We thought this was the start of Williams's journey, and we felt it was a good decision.
Fast forward three weeks to the phone call that had me angry, confused, upset but more importantly disappointed.
“We don’t feel William will suit our program. We feel its best that he attends somewhere else, and perhaps after a few years he can re-join our program”
I can’t even begin to tell you how I felt after hearing this. Without saying it, both parties (myself and the school) knew very well that it was because of William’s diagnosis. Because he was different. Because he wouldn’t have fit into their high standards and the high scores that they so desperately focus on.
It was a tough conversation, to say the least, and while I held my own and didn’t get too emotional, I continued to think how dare they deny my child the same opportunity as everyone else that walks through their doors.
We’ll never know how he could have coped because he was never given the chance.
A little part of me felt I’d let William down. Like I didn’t push or fight harder for him to have been accepted. But at the end of the day, why would I fight so hard, when they didn’t want him there to begin with?
I made it clear to them that they handled the whole situation very badly, and I wondered whether they’d treated other families like that also. This, I’ll never know.
I soon came to the realisation that it just wasn’t the right place for him. They didn’t deserve my beautiful boy.
And this is when the ‘It’s all meant to be’ moment starts.
As you can imagine, it took me a while to move on from this, but when that door shut, another one opened. A much better one. One where William would be valued and supported no matter how different he was.
This of course saw the opening of ‘William Ready’. A place created for William which would see him excel and go from strength to strength. This has by far been the best thing for William’s development. A place that celebrates every small win, as well as supports and helps his challenges.
As well as finding a beautiful local kindergarten for William which he attends weekly, we know we made the right decision in the end, and that is something I feel so proud about.
Parents of Autistic kids have it tough, and this was the first bump in our long and rocky road ahead.
I’ll be sure to teach William to keep driving forward, to find another path and don’t let anyone stop him. I’ll teach him to focus on his strengths and achieve what others may think is impossible.
All kids deserve the best regardless of their background.
(Devoted Mum and Co-Founder of William Ready)