When our son turned 15 months old, it occurred to me that he might be on the spectrum of Autism. I had noticed for some time that his speech was significantly delayed and one day something happened; I got tired of waiting for him to start talking and spontaneously decided to take him for speech therapy.

I started by asking my Doctor for a specialist developmental paediatrician. I was very lucky when I took our son to visit a speech therapist here that a friend of mine had recommended, and he adored her instantly. (It is so important to find someone who makes it enjoyable for your child and who is able and willing to work with you).

Finding the help we needed was easy here – but very expensive. In England, everything would have been provided for us, however we wouldn’t have been able to pick and choose what and importantly who is best for our son. We would have had to just follow a plan set out for us. In Dubai, we got to choose and we’re really grateful for that.

When my son was finally diagnosed, I had extremely mixed emotions. I felt so guilty that I hadn’t taken him for therapy sooner but if I think back now, he just wasn’t ready for therapy before that point, but it took me several months to realise this.

I joined several Facebook parent support groups (see below) and straight away felt less alone in what I was going through. I also ended up joining adult Autism groups, as I felt that many support groups were a place where mums used to wallow in their pain.

Acceptance of Autism is so very important. If you spend time trying to ‘fight’ it, you can waste all your energy on something that never was or never can be, instead of just enjoying the wonderful child you have.

Our son has SED (Selective Eating Disorder). This means he is food phobic and I have had to get my head round and learn that it’s okay for him to eat the same foods over, and over again. I have had to learn that his fear is real, and as his mum, I need to accommodate it.

That’s the thing – learning to adapt. I have to give my Son plenty of warning about getting ready in the morning, so that his brain can process all the information. Equally, I give him plenty of downtime after school too, so he might spend an hour on his iPad or he might want to cuddle and watch some TV – he is really good at telling me what he needs.

It’s definitely not easy going, though. As a family, we have faced many challenges, but I have grown as a parent and I understand my husband so much better, too. I don’t think a lot of marriages can cope with the struggles we’ve had, but luckily, that’s not my experience and our Son has made our family that much stronger.

I have learnt so much from him it’s unbelievable; his speech has now improved incredibly, which is helpful as it lessens the frustration caused by miscommunication for both of us. The amount of patience I have acquired is amazing, (as I never thought I had it in me), and I have learnt the importance of mutual respect in the parent/child relationship. I have to constantly model correct behaviour for our Son because there’s no way he would let me have double standards!

My personal challenge that I’ve faced on our journey, was needing to educate myself. No one gives you advice or information and a lot of professionals over here don’t really understand Autism at all. Parents, (and people in general), need to realise that what might look like bad behaviour in the first instance, may actually be a child struggling to deal with an overwhelming amount of input from a world designed for the Neurotypical brain.

It has been two years since our Son was diagnosed, and he has changed enormously. I’m so proud of him, but I don’t second guess his future at all. I know he will be fine – he is such a cool little dude and one that I wouldn’t change for the world.

Please take time to watch this video with your own children. Through education, we can create awareness and acceptance of Autism:

Support groups in the UAE include:
Autism Trust Foundation, The Autism Forum – Parents in the UAE, Include ME UAE, SEN UAE, Child Development Issues UAE and SFS – Special Families Support Group

Recommended Child Therapy from fellow British mums include Bakhtaver Ayrton at The Developing Child Centre, Dr Faniran of The Children’s Medical Centre, Dr Amber at Camali Clinic and the teams at Reach Out and the Child Early Intervention Medical Centre.

Activity providers who have expertise with Autistic children include E Sports UAE, Al Marmoom Equine Therapy, Dubai Offshore Sailing Club Sailability & football, Beavers & Cub Scouts, Tender Hearts Arena, My Gym, the Art Therapy International Centre, Skillsforkids.ae, Dubai Centre for Special Needs, Little Explorers, Legoland, Kids First and Sensation Station.

On April 15th everyone’s invited to Zabeel Park for the Global Autism Awareness Festival. For more information, see www.walkforautismdubai.com

If you’re travelling soon, some UK airports including Gatwick and Manchester have fast track systems for autistic passengers and even the Natural History Museum holds mornings especially for Autistic visitors.

If you have any tips to share regarding autism, please comment below and we would love to include these to help fellow British mums.

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