This is our journey along a diagnosis to ASD and ADHD.
Our eldest had a pretty normal journey through pregnancy and delivery. My wife suffered a bit with blood pressure but we had a scheduled section at 37/38 weeks. An incident at the maternity hospital meant he was in the Children's hospital for a few days after birth. I had two weeks off work and my wife had managed her maternity leave to try and maximise time post natal.
He had some time with grandparents when my wife returned to work and then onto creche when he was a little older (9 months). We took him to our local creche, right on our doorstep - we moved him before he had 3 months there - it just didn't feel right, he was in and out of doctors and hospitals with infections, staff/child ratios never seemed right - it was later one of the facilities highlighted in the media back in 2012. Thankfully we had already moved and hadn't stayed long. We noticed at this stage, that he would never go anywhere or be anywhere without his plush blankets.
Our eldest thrived in his new creche. He remained there until going to school and was part of the 'before school' and 'after school' clubs. As he was growing he hit all his typical markers, crawling, walking, talking etc.
Around 18 months, we think he had his first 'meltdown' or it was the early onset of the 'Terrible Twos'. We were at a hotel and had spent the afternoon in the hotel pool. Upon leaving the pool and going into the changing rooms a 'tantrum' started at having to leave. 60 minutes later, he was settled but my Lord, what an experience.
Sometime later, another tantrum/meltdown. This time in a supermarket and a grey haired old lady came across to us to say that what was going on wasn't a tantrum and wasn't normal, we should have him checked. He hated supermarkets and to this day we manage his shopping experience as best as possible.
When he was two, we signed up to join a toddler soccer group on a Saturday morning, that dealt with kids in different groups from 2 to 5. He had great fun there, making friends and running around. I've a memory here of one of the coaches speaking to me when my eldest was into his second year at the group, the coach was commenting on how 'he just didn't listen'. The coaches were, to be fair, quite good with him. Now, years later looking back, this structured movement class laid down strong foundations for his gross motor skills. He plays GAA (football and hurling), badminton at a junior club and also Karate. Whilst his movement patterns can be quite stiff or jerky at times, he perseveres and enjoys his time in sport.
We had to take him to A&E once, he was running a high temp, wasn't eating properly and was coughing a lot. I think he was 18mths to 2. The doctor in A&E thought we were exaggerating, our lad was smiling, bubbly and interacting with everyone. During the check up, she inspected his throat and saw pus - she apologized to us and said he must have a high pain threshold.
At around 2 and a half, during a particularly bad rain storm, I said to him that it was raining cats and dogs. He rushed to the window in expectation and was really angry with me that I would lie to him, explaining to me that it wasn't raining cats and dogs and he'd never believe anything I said again. He's 9 and a half now and still believes in Santa.
When he was three, he was playing next door with a neighbour and came home announcing that he'd put a stone in his ear (the neighbour's eldest son had jokingly said for him to do it). We couldn't see anything and said it must've fallen out. After a few days, the story remained the same and we took him to the GP. The GP couldn't see anything. 6 months later, the story still remained the same, we took him to a private specialist (having no faith in the GP - explained later) and a stone was removed under anaesthetic. Over the next 3 years, he had three sets of Grommets inserted. The specialist told us, after a hearing test, he was almost deaf in the one ear.
2014 also saw the birth of our youngest. Our eldest became a 'big brother'.
The same GP (as above), suggested to my wife that we were being 'bad parents' as we didn't seem to be able to control our son. He was obviously a very bright boy, with nothing wrong with him, we just needed to be sterner and provide more stimulation for him. My wife had spoken to the GP regarding her concerns that something wasn't quite right with our eldest, seeking a referral to see a child specialist as we felt we were beginning to see some potential issues when we joined the dots.
He started school at 4 and a 1/2. Within a month his teacher was commenting to us that he seemed to struggle to use scissors - as if it was something that we should note, be aware of and do something about. He struggled to listen, wouldn't pay attention, wouldn't sit still and had issues with taking turns during conversations. He had used and continued to use scissors at home and at creche, so we put it down to the new environment. Little did we know that fine motor skills are a red flag for educational professionals. He talked incessantly at home, so this was normal for him and us.
All of the above occurred before his 5th birthday. Many of the incidents, looking back were red flag markers or indicators of ASD (in some form): high pain threshold; not recognizing the tone in others voices; literal understanding of phrases; tantrums/meltdowns; the sensory need for touch experience; not reading social queues or subtilties (in conversation and facial expression especially) and misconstrued emotions.
No one told us at any stage that Autism was a spectrum, I'm young enough to remember the movie Rain Man as an example of Autism - not a healthy looking boy who interacted with people, smiled a lot but just appeared now and again to have really bad tantrums or reacted badly to certain stimulus.
I'll summarise his time and our experiences of starting school in more detail next time.