As a part of our series of articles about inspiring mothers, Dawn Avery company director, and mother of two boys, shares her experiences of being the mother of Aston, who in 1995 at the age of two and a half years old was diagnosed with Autism.
Dawn describes it as a day that will be etched in her heart forever. Aston’s doctor called Dawn and her husband Keith to a meeting. Dawn explains that they sat in a large room, the same room where they normally attend their son Aston’s development classes. They were surrounded by doctors from the Queen Elizabeth hospital who had been monitoring Aston and they felt a little intimidated.
“All these professionals were here to discuss our son, where had we gone wrong that it took so many professionals the need to intervene and give their professional advice. Had we failed so miserably as parents?”
The family doctor explained that they had undergone every necessary test and assessment possible for Aston and were without any doubt in conclusion that Dawn’s son has a condition called autism. He went on to explain that it is a condition that will require specialist education and Aston would need to continue under his care. He could not confirm if Aston would be manageable or if he may at some point need to go into residential care. Aston was diagnosed with no real speech at the time and so sadly the doctors could not confirm if he would ever actually speak as often autistic children become selective mute. The doctor went on to explain that if there is no real speech by the age of five, then it is likely Aston would be a selective mute. On hearing this Dawn felt alone, her ears were ringing, and her head swirled, and her stomach churned with the news.
Dawn turned to Keith to see a single tear trickle down his face who held on to Dawn’s hand tightly. They were both mentally and physically drained. Dawn explains that they were already aware in their hearts that their son was autistic, and yet to hear so many doctors say this out loud made it so very real. Keith clenched her hand and looked at the doctor, “So what can we do to help?” It was at that moment in time; Dawn says she felt closer to Keith and her children than ever before. Dawn says that there and then she decided that she and her husband could do this; they would fight tooth and nail to get their son all the help he needed, and they would see this journey through together, together as a family.
As Dawn and Keith left the hospital, they realised the full extent of what doctors had told them. Dawn and Keith needed to share the diagnosis with her mum and with her eldest son Aaron. Dawn worried whether her family would look at her and her husband differently. She recalls thinking “Would people somehow blame us?” Her perfect handsome little boy had so many problems, and it nearly all boiled down to that word. That, awful, confusing dreadful word, that word that had been mentioned way back when “Your son is AUTISTIC!”
Dawn was concerned about how the extended family would react. Everyone knew Aston was different as family gatherings had already highlighted this fact. Dawn describes how her family was not particularly forthcoming with her visiting. Nor did she blame them it was never easy. Now with a so-called label, would this make the situation any easier, and if so why? How could the family not tell what Dawn and Keith already knew? “This beautiful delicate little boy with the soft blonde curls and the dark, dark eyes, he was different, but that just made him more needing.” Dawn was afraid that revealing a label would somehow allow family and friends to be forgiving of their actions towards her son Aston.
Dawn questions whether she would have acted any differently? Dawn says she cannot answer this, but she hopes so. She hopes that she would have been more understanding and selective with her words when in the company of parents who had a child with a condition such as Aston.
Dawn and Keith had a diagnosis but in reality, nothing had changed. They went home dispirited; they knew they had to fight but at this stage. Dawn questioned what fight did she have inside her? “Could we continue as we were?” She asked herself. “A diagnosis but not a prognosis, we needed to build our happy ending and at this moment in time, it seemed damn near impossible. We were both numb. We could not even discuss it fully with each other; a weight was lifted but at the same time, a cloud had been formed. Our future was unclear and what we hoped was to be informative, just left us with more questions.”
The 4th February 1995 was the was the day that altered the rest of Dawn’s family’s life, but in the fact that tear, that single tear was the floodgates of so much more to come!
Dawn’s Story – See Stories from five inspiring mothers
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