There was speculation at Great Ormond Street that Joshua has some autistic traits when they assessed him prior to his brain surgery and this ‘diagnosis’ has remained on his medical records. I am not convinced, from the little that I know of autism and from the young people that I see at school. I think what led them down this path was his love of the same familiar movies endlessly – he only has three animated films on my iPad and watches them endlessly – and perhaps his ‘stimming’ – which in him, is hand-flapping and repeating words, and he used to bounce a lot pre-surgery.
However, there are other ways in which I do not think he is on the autistic spectrum:
- Joshua is a laid back young man who is not distressed by changes in his routine. He does not yearn for school when it is holiday time, although he is usually pleased to go back there. He takes his monthly respite stays in his stride and does not need lots of preparation in order for him to accept the change. Joshua has always been better at adapting to change than I am in fact!
- Joshua is exceptionally sociable – he adores mixing with people and he tends to invade their personal space, by putting his face very close to theirs, stroking their hair or offering bear hugs. He does not have a problem with eye contact or even entering a room full of strangers and he certainly does not prefer to hide himself away in those situations.
- Joshua does not need order in his life, he is a messy soul who has no desire to group things together or line them up in any kind of order. He is more likely to mess up a room or display rather than need it to be in a very particular way. With messy parents, he lives in a cluttered home and so he has simply embraced the clutter that he lives with.
- He does not have much real focus or attention to detail, Joshua has a short attention span and flits from activity to activity, leaving a trail of devastation behind himself usually. He would rarely sit focussed on a game or puzzle for long.
I questioned this ‘autistic traits’ description when it was first suggested, back in nursery school, when we were organising his statement. His very down to earth health visitor at the time said ” I don’t think that you need to worry about that now, hes got enough on his plate already”, so I chose to ignore it as she suggested, until it was raised again ten years later. The reality is that for Joshua, having an ASD diagnosis or not at this stage, does not really help him. He is who he is, he is already in a special school where autism is well understood, but they treat their pupils as individuals and teach them accordingly. Joshua does not need another label to add to his diagnosis, he simply is who he is and we love him for it.