“That’s a shame”. “Was there not a test you could have done while pregnant?”. “He doesn’t talk because you speak two languages to him, you’re confusing him”. “He doesn’t look autistic”. These are just some of the negative reactions we experience when people learn that our 2 ½ year old son has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
His ASD was confirmed to us at 17 months after seeing a few specialists in the field, and to be honest it was more of a relief to me, that my instincts as a mother were right. When his ASD was first confirmed it was really difficult, because in Cyprus, development issues and conditions, and children with special needs are stigmatized. It was also hard trying to find any information and support for families. The level of negativity and judgement was also hard to overcome at first, but as a family we were determined to create as happy and as ‘normal’ life as we could for our son and his two siblings.
So, we try to educate those around us (which is exhausting at times!). With a little research and speaking to a few people who I knew personally were experiencing similar issues, we found a rehabilitation centre for him that he now attends every day. In between his support team there and his doctors, we have found his happy space and continue to support his growth and development. He is a bright, bubbly, happy little boy who brings so much joy into our lives and those that meet him. We are truly blessed to be his parents.
However, we are only at the start of our journey. The real hardship will start when he is ready to attend school because so far we have been told that most private schools will not accept autistic children and state schools do not have the capacity to deal with children with special needs. As a mother of a child with special needs, you want your child to be treated equally, with the respect they deserve and to receive the support they need free of judgement. But that is hard when our culture, society and institutions do not reflect this.