David is my teenage son and autistic. When first diagnosed at the age of three, the doctor told me he would never develop mentally. However, over the years he has evolved within his own world. Here, I hope to tell of some of the strange but sometimes wonderful things about him and hopefully give a little insight and understanding into living with autism.

Living with David Jan 8 2013
Okay, I never meant to leave it this long, but I can now tell you what happened following my last post in January this year: What’s Been Happening – Part One.

Last year, having been failed miserably by the college trusted to instruct him in life skills, David was more or less confined within an assessment unit for psychiatric patients. He didn’t need to be there, the team medically discharged him after four weeks. The problems of his meltdowns have always been present, though and needed understanding with prevention and intervention methods, something management at the first college were unwilling to do, despite the excellent staff support.

He spent eight months at the assessment unit in Walsall. I’m not saying it was a bad place, don’t get me wrong, the staff were tremendous, but the unit was not where David needed to be. Somebody as lively and active needed stimulation, which the unit could not provide. He had his computer, but no internet. He also had his camera, MP3, and trains. However, what David did not have was his liberty. The highlight of a typical day for David, if I were not able to visit due to my 24-hour shifts, was a half hour stroll down the road to the local shop to purchase a milkshake. Therefore, although I tried to restrict my visits to alternate days so he would not become dependent on seeing me, this soon failed and I would end up going every day I was not at work.

I have to say, that was not good for our relationship with one another. He had nothing in his life and it was the same day after day. I could go as often as I wanted but the sad fact was, with David’s limited conversation, there was little to talk about.

He was bored and at least once a week I would bring him home so he could access the internet and make some of the wonderful audio/visual creations he is fond of. But the situation was still desperate, and it nearly ended dragging us both down. For him, the constant looking forward to my visit. For me – eight months of having my days off revolve around when I would see him. We’ve probably all been there; a relative in hospital and visiting hours dictating your life. This was the case for us lasting eight months.

A treat of a few days in Llandudno, a special firework display on his 21st birthday followed by a meal, these were all things which helped break the monotony.

In the meanwhile, staff at the assessment unit worked alongside social workers trying to find a new placement for David. I visited several, some of which may have worked, but I and those who supported David decided he needed the best available.

A specialist autism college was sourced, but funding was an issue with the decision taking months to arrive. Now before people decry the council – don’t. I totally understand. These places cost a heck of a lot and all avenues needed to be explored first. Finally, a couple of days before Christmas, David received the best possible present with the news he had a place at the specialist college.

On February 3 this year, David was taken to his new college by his key nurse, Sonia from the assessment unit. She, like many at the unit, helped David immensely. That day, I made my own way and he was already relaxing in the communal area he shares with three others. He looked happy, as you can see from this picture of him in his room.

Living with David - New College Bedroom. © Antony N Britt

It’s early days but so far, indications are that this has been the right move. David has loads of activities and is actually eating healthy for once in his life, losing weight as a result. Okay, he still tries it on with new staff on occasional trips to McDonald’s where he’ll insist he always has twenty nuggets, and not nine. I travel to see him once a month (it’s a fair distance) and he’s come home to stay a number of times. I have also just returned from taking him away for a week to his beloved Paignton where he saw his favourite steam trains, Lydham Manor and Hercules, every day.

I speak regularly and staff supported him to see his sister in a production of Singin’ in the Rain, and also to attend his cousin’s wedding. Not often does a day goes by without him messaging me on Facebook or posting his Christmas, Birthday and holiday wish lists to my wall. I even have a regular delivery of post with his latest (often laminated) lists.

It is anticipated he will be there a number of years before he is ready to return to the borough with the plan of moving into supported living. I’m not going to give the name of the college as I don’t want to infringe on their privacy. All I can say is they are doing good, and I am glad that one horrible chapter in David’s life is over.
Cheers.

 

 

Nick

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