I got round to watching the documentary that was on ITV last week, (hidden fairly late in the schedule) ‘Girls With Autism’. Wow. That was probably the most emotional hour of telly I’ve seen in a good while (and this includes the deaths of two of my telly faves – Will Gardner in ‘The Good Wife’ and Jon Snow from ‘Game of Thrones’).
I wanted to watch the programme to gain some insight into what may lie ahead on Tink’s journey in Autismland. I really wasn’t quite prepared for what I saw. When the head teacher of Limpsfield Grange school began talking about how most of the girls had never had a friend that wasn’t a family member, and how they’d been bullied and suffered depression, I was sobbing. These things just hadn’t occurred to me yet. Why would they? Tink is just 3. It’s a long way off, isn’t it? Or is it…?
The thought that she may never have proper friends just makes me feel so sad. I see her now, not playing with other children, and it’s fine. It’s not great – if she were neurotypical, she should, by now, be at least starting to interact with others, but it wouldn’t be hugely out of the ordinary if she wasn’t yet. However I see her attempting to talk to other children very occasionally and, because they don’t understand her, they just give her an odd look and walk away. That breaks my heart. These are 3 year olds! The thought that this may be the case for all of her childhood is just… well, there are no words. And the realisation that she may be bullied because of her difference from other children? Gah. Just how do you protect your child from that?
The possibility that she may suffer from depression worries me a lot. I have suffered from depression, on and off for around twenty years, although I was only diagnosed around 11 years ago. I’m in a good period that has lasted a decent length of time so far, but I know I’ll never be ‘cured’. Some days are hard, but those are few and far between at the moment. The idea that Tink could go through this, but with the added difficulties her condition poses… It scares me. There seems to be a lot of self-harming going on in girls with autism. So sad.
There were girls with obsessions – one, in particular who had an obsession with boys. Oh god. I had never considered that! How do you deal with that one? Her parents admitted they can’t leave her alone and that she’ll probably never live an independent life, but that they would never wish for her to be different. I really liked her spirit! I could imagine Tink growing up to be a bit like her – which both put a smile on my face and a good dose of horror in my heart! There were girls with varying needs and the thing that shone out most was the care that the teachers and support staff showed. They treated the girls with respect and dignity whilst trying to steer them through probably the most tricky time in their lives, all whilst boarding away from home, some rather reluctantly.
We may be in for a rough ride when Tink hits puberty and those difficult teenage years – hell, what parent of a teen girl doesn’t have worries? However, it may not be as bad as we might fear. That’s the beauty of this journey we’re embarking on… It’s a magical mystery tour! I really liked (and sobbed again at) the quote from one of the girls right at the end: “the most beautiful thing a girl with autism can wear… is herself”.