Family: An Anonymous Story

After a long conversation with a friend about a subject that really matters to me, I began to think (and so did she) that this might be a subject that matters to a lot of others like me. The subject is family, most especially the families of those with an Autistic Spectrum condition. I read many news articles and blog / forum posts about parents putting a voice out there for their child.  I have read the same sort of posts written by siblings.  But what they rarely talk about is the great job they do bringing us up and the strength this takes, and the strategies they have to come up with to help.

I believe this is something that needs to be spoken about, honoured and respected.  I know only too well how it hinders parents and siblings and the work it takes, because my family take part in that work very day. One person I have always worried about in the process of helping me is my mum.  She is the most remarkable woman ever.  All my life she has taken the brunt of my anger, my tears and my meltdowns.  Don’t get me wrong: my father has too, but I want to speak about that later.

My Mum is a rock that you would never think crumbles. I know this isn’t true and I know that many times she has crumbled.  It has been down to the fight she has put up not just for me, but for all my siblings. You see, I am one of 7 children and although many of us have our problems and medical conditions, I was unique.  I don’t believe parenting is ever an easy job, but when you have a child like me, you have to think ahead of everything you do and say, or you get Taz (which I will explain later). When you get Taz, you get tears, frustration and disappointment, not only my own but my mum’s.  She has cried because I hurt her feelings, because she has so desperately wanted to help me, and just because of lot of things.  Frustration came when she couldn’t help or professionals wouldn’t listen, and disappointment because she never knew what to do at times. With that, you also get love, admiration, strength, an amazing smile and laughter.

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I know it hurts when I blame her, or scream and shout, or don’t seem to appreciate her help.  But it also hurts me as I do these things.  And she deals with it because she understands.  I think sometimes you take it out on those you love most.  So you see, my mum is remarkable.

Now to my Dad, and this is where Taz comes in. My Aspergers has been just as hard for him, and at first he found it difficult to help me.  Then he struck on something that works to this day.  You see, for every little quirk I have shown or every period of obsession, my dad has had a way to describe what sort of mood I am putting across. My dad has all these little nicknames for me and now that I am older if he says one of them to me, I know I am not being myself, or not being very nice/calm.

It started when I was young.  I had this need for independence, but also this sensory issue with clothes, specifically tops.  Every morning I tried to dress myself and would go into my parents’ room shouting, ‘Dad, fixmatop.’ When he did, I often shouted it again and again, this time not because it was on wrong but because it hurt me, so I developed this name and others to describe situations I went through. Then came the names to describe my actions and I eventually became known as his little devil, because it made my little meltdowns a little lighthearted, so much so that one day my mum bought my dad a devil teddy and when I came home it had a label across its head saying my real name.

Then there were the times when I’d be calm and suddenly just change moods and fly around, slamming doors, etc.  This is how I became Taz.  Or when I was fine and some small thing suddenly made me upset with people, I was known as the crazy farmer (from an old advert).  I tried to develop coping methods of my own, but if it was obvious I was not coping, my dad would notice this and explain it for me.  He would say, ‘Taz,’ or whatever, and I would suddenly understand what was happening emotionally.

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Now for my siblings.  They are extraordinary.  For the older three, I was a little strange to begin with as they had grown up like normal siblings, with normal sibling squabbles.  Then there was me.  I couldn’t let a normal fight go.  I always thought more of it, took things the wrong way, looked at their friends strangely.  But as they grew into teenagers, they also grew to understand my differences.  My eldest sister took me with her on play dates with her friend’s step-son and I stayed at her house many times.  We became very close as a result.  The youngest of my two older brothers took me swimming weekly and taught me to cook from the age of seven.  My eldest brother was int he army, but when  he came home he took me to school and spoiled me.  I was always treated as an equal.

They lost friends for me, got bullied because of me, but to them, I was just their sister and they could accept me for being different.  I am especially close to my youngest sister.  She was once asked what it was like having a sister with Asperger’s Syndrome; she said it was the same as having any other sister.  They asked if it was hard when I took things too seriously; she said she would just tell me straight like she would with anyone else, although she does know not to take it too far.  So you see, to my siblings, I am equal, though different.

That’s my amazing family.  Where would I be without them?

What about your family?

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