My Mum wasn’t surprised to discover me and my brother fighting over a green fruit pastel when we were kids.
Her father was colour blind and she knew it ran through her DNA, and would be passed on to her kids.
The fruit pastel was in fact orange.
You do tests in Primary School to confirm it, and then you get on with your life.
Coincidentally, my wife carries the colour blind gene too.
Our birth son is colour blind.
Our adopted son isn’t.
He doesn’t share our DNA.
Being colour blind is generally a relatively minor inconvenience.
You can’t be a pilot or an electrician and you have to ask shop assistants if clothes match.
You don’t get extra time in exams or a badge that lets you park near The Asda.
I think my colour blindness is stated in my doctor’s notes.
Our adopted son may have perfect colour vision but he does have some other additional needs.
Numerous children we have fostered have had additional needs.
This is born out by statistics.
Kids in care, or who have been in care, are far more likely to be neurodiverse than kids who aren’t or who haven’t.
Dyslexia, dyscalculia, dyspraxia, ASD, ADHD and numerous other three letter acronyms are far far more prevalent in our LAC and PLAC communities.
Whether you foster, adopt or got your kids via more traditional methods, working out that they’re neurodiverse, getting a diagnosis and the necessary support is a challenge, ‘challenge’ being a euphemism for a Herculean task of epic proportions, that will almost certainly drive you mad.
We’ve been to our wonderful local Kids’ hospital more times than I can count, and I can count quite high.
It’s newly completed, purpose built, light, airy, with TV screens showing Dr Ouch on a loop.
It has a resident magician and celebrities regularly pop in to cheer everyone up.
If you want to find out if your kid has autism, you have to go to the ‘old building’.
Navigating the old building is some sort of parental test.
Dark, dilapidated corridors with out of date signage eventually lead you to a Waiting Room, but only for those willing to persevere, for those who will not give up on their child, and who are doggedly determined.
The staff are gorgeous, but you only know that if and when you find them in Reception.
This is a good analogy for accessing help for your child.
It’s hard work.
It can be a full time job.
It’s exhausting and can be exasperating.
Our little man was taken to a separate room for his tests.
I knew this wouldn’t bode well.
At the time, his separation anxiety was particularly acute, and being with strangers in a strange place sent him straight into his ‘lizard brain’ or ‘amygdala’ if you’ve been on a course.
He basically froze, and stared.
20 minutes later, we were reunited.
I bought him a Meal Deal as a treat.
Chicken with stuffing, quavers and an orange drink.
It’s not always the same, but it usually is.
It took several appointments and lots of paper shuffling to get an autistic diagnosis.
My emotional reaction was mixed.
Practically, this diagnosis would help us access what he needs and what he’s entitled to.
The autistic diagnosis has helped us get him an EHCP (Educational Health Care Plan) and then DLA (Disability Living Allowance).
On the other hand, ‘An autistic diagnosis’ really doesn’t tell you very much.
We already knew he liked routine and felt reassured by the familiar.
If you’ve met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person.
I should also point out that my wife does the form filling in our house.
Without Mrs Watson’s tenacity, logical mind, massively high levels of literacy, and ability to understand ‘the language of bureaucracy’, our kid would be lost in a system.
I have never filled out a form successfully in my life.
Our Social Worker once asked if I had a diagnosis for ADHD and directed me to an online diagnosis tool.
I started the test, got bored, and went off to do something else.
There are some things this kid struggles to do.
Meeting and interacting with strangers is high up on the list.
But is this a rational fear based on the trauma of his early life or part of his neurodiversity?
I don’t know.
Recently I asked him to tidy his room, again.
He said he was busy.
When asked again, he said he couldn’t.
Apparently, and I quote him verbatim ‘my autism is playing up’.
* I was going to do a glossary but CBA.