David, 8, loves trains and steam engines and one of his best days out ever was a VIP trip to the bus station. His autism means he is uniquely enthusiastic about the things that interest him.
This is his story, as told by mum Donna.
David has ASD (autism spectrum disorder), ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder), and sensory processing disorder. He can become overwhelmed very easily by loud noises like children crying, and by children in general as their behaviour is very unpredictable.
David likes to mimic other children’s behaviour. Due to his condition, he either tries to run off or he will try and lash out at children. Thankfully I can now predict his reaction so I am able to stop him in time. He doesn’t like hurting people but his body does not give him this choice.
My main point to people who stare in judgement is to do this: turn all the lights on in a room, have the TV going loud, then put the music on loud, and if they have access to white noise also put this on. How does this make you feel? Can you focus? Can you remain calm? This is how my son feels when he is in a busy place like a supermarket or on the school run. This is how his world is.
He is not screaming and trying to run away because he wants a toy, or because he is spoilt, or because I am a bad parent. My life as a parent is nothing at all like you can imagine. My time is spent making sure we avoid any triggers, so I have to make sure I am close enough and focused enough to be able to grab David before he can try and kick out and hurt someone. I have to protect David and other people every time I am out with him.
I also have to make sure David gets enough nutrition. He doesn’t know how to swallow so I have to puree his food every day. He can’t eat anything with lumps, no crisps and no sweets, so I also have to ensure it is food he can manage.
I have to wake up six to eight times a night to give him baby formula. If he drinks it in the day he is too full to eat and he needs the nutrition from the formula. I would say this is good parenting. Instead of judging, people should look away or walk away or even offer to help.
I am a parent who loves their child. No matter what obstacles we face, we will always accept and love David for who he is. He is an exceptional child who battles daily with the things that are hard for him. David isn’t autism, David is David – the autism just makes him see things differently.
David is the most amazing boy. He tries so hard to achieve things and he has brought such a joy to our lives. Seeing him running down to the train station to catch a glimpse of his favourite train in the morning is amazing – the pure happiness in his eyes is worth every single battle. Every single bad day is wiped away. This is the positive side of autism. He has pure love for things. His mind can see things we can’t or don’t notice.
This is the part of our life that most people simply do not see.
This is the Secret Life of Us.