Our Ziggy is 2. He is one very special, unique little boy and he happens to be autistic.
Ziggy in his own world where eating sand is completely cool
"Having a child with autism means we face different challenges every single day. Ziggy demands a lot of our time and attention. Yes...far more than a typical toddler! We never seem to have a second to ourselves, even in the evenings as Ziggy's sleep is often disorderly and he has no regular pattern or routine!
But it's not just the everyday challenges which autism brings. We also have to cope with the heartache when he doesn't reach those exciting milestones which all parents eagerly await and share at baby groups or on social media. We cope with his frustrations, celebrate every achievement with him and are thankful every day for having this beautiful boy in our lives.
If I could change one thing, it would be to educate people about autism. I am often (way too often!) judged by complete strangers who assume we, as parents can't control our naughty child. Ziggy is not naughty. Ziggy is autistic! He is just a little boy who works a little differently, who interacts a little differently, and like a lot of autistic children, he is non-verbal. This all makes it hard for him to communicate what he wants or how he feels. He gets frustrated and has what an outsider would see as a tantrum. We see this behaviour very differently. He is trying to get his feelings across and connect with us as, you see, connecting is something Ziggy struggles with.
Ziggy is a normal little boy – he wants to play with toys, to play with friends, to run, to draw, to watch TV and to laugh but he doesn’t relate to people or things the same as other children and will often seem as though he is playing in his own world. He does though, want you to play too! This quote perfectly describes Ziggy... He is not ignoring you, he is simply waiting for you to enter his world.
So next time you see a child having a meltdown, or not joining in, maybe don’t be so quick to judge. Think about how you’re making them feel, show some interest, join in, offer some support or even just a smile. Although we have faced many challenges and know we have many more ahead, we have one very special little boy who is on his own journey, finding his own path in the world. We will hold his hand every step of the way.”
what is autism?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is the name for a range of similar conditions that affect a person's social interaction, communication, interests, behaviour and how they experience the world and is a lifelong, developmental disability. It’s impossible to predict the course of autism spectrum disorder and it’s impossible to know what life is going to be like for an autistic child.
Like everyone else, children with autism have an entire lifetime to grow and develop their abilities. The more we know about autism and the challenges autistic children face every day, the better equipped we can be to help them.
how do i know if my child is autistic?
We know that this can be a really worrying time if you suspect your child is autistic but getting a diagnosis early can ensure a better understanding of their needs and get you and them the support you need.
There are no biological markers, scans or blood tests that can pick up the condition. Parents often say they can tell from quite early on that their little one is different, so it’s important to bring it up with your GP (or health visitor in the case of very young children) if you’re at all worried.
what are the signs of autism?
• Rarely using gestures or facial expressions when communicating and avoiding eye contact
• Not smiling when smiled at, or respond to their name and the sound of a familiar voice
• Not pointing things out to you to draw your attention to objects or events
• Not enjoying playing or interacting with others and showing emerging difficulties with social interaction and social communication
• Repetitive behaviour like rocking or repeating the same action over and over again, for example repeatedly lining up their toys in a particular order
• Resistance to change or doing things differently
• Behaviour such as biting, pinching, kicking, pica (putting inedible items in their mouth), or self-injurious behaviour
• Sensory sensitivity for example not liking to be touched, not liking loud noises or not liking food based on the texture or colour
• Delayed speech development or no speech at all
• If your child’s speech development has been within expected guidelines and they begin to regress, losing some of the skills they had attained
• Not being aware of other people’s personal space, or being unusually intolerant of people entering their own personal space
Remember though that just because your little one displays some or any of these behaviours, it doesn’t mean they are autistic. Autism is diagnosed when a child displays a number of symptoms.
Should you need any further information, contact the National Autistic Society which provides confidential expert advice and support for autistic people, their families and friends.
Ziggy’s story as told by his Mum Alex, a freelance illustrator from Hertfordshire.