I have a son called Aiden.
I remember when he was born like it was yesterday. When I held him in my arms for the first time. I was so overwhelmed, all I could do was stare at him. I couldn’t believe I made such a beautiful little boy. That he came from me.
Watching him grow everyday was a blessing. Everything he did was special. His first smile, his first laugh… As he grew, a little personality began to shine through, one only he could have. Until Aiden came into my life, I didn’t know what love truly was.
I used to get these emails; baby milestone ones. The ones that told you what your child should be doing every week. I read them and realised one day that Aiden wasn’t doing the things they were saying. While crawling and walking eventually came, he wasn’t talking. Babbling, sure, but no words. On Facebook, friends would post pictures or videos of their babies—younger than Aiden—chatting away. Doing things Aiden wouldn’t do.
I didn’t like comparing him to other children. But I felt like I was doing something wrong. Was I not parenting him properly? He did watch a lot of Mickey Mouse… Maybe I should give him more attention. Do more. Be more.
But Aiden wasn’t interested in me. He was happy being in his own world and doing things his way. I stopped thinking about it for a little while. I didn’t want to be stressed over it. He was happy, and whatever little quirks he started to develop, I loved them and him regardless.
When Aiden was two and a half we moved to Ireland. Once we settled down, I decided to take him to the doctor. He still wasn’t talking and I knew I needed to find out why.
This started an extremely long process of hospital appointments and assessments. Aiden wasn’t at the stage he was supposed to be for his age. Not just a speech delay, but development and learning, too.
I will always remember the day the word Autism was mentioned. I was sitting in a room with two doctors. They were firing questions at me and I was trying to answer as honestly as I could. Autism, they said. He’s showing signs of Autism.
After I left that room I burst into tears. Autism was stopping my baby from communicating with me. I’d heard of it, but didn’t know much about it. When I got home, I researched it online. A ‘hidden’ disability. A mental condition that causes difficulty in communication. Life-long. Can’t be cured, but can be helped with therapy. Makes it hard for people to form relationships. Impacts their ability to make sense of the world around them.
The more I learned about autism, the more I could see aspects of it in Aiden. Through the initial shock, I knew in my heart and soul this was it. This was the answer and accepting it was the first step. I’m not going to lie, I didn’t want to accept it at first. What mother does? I thought that he would be okay. It was just something he would grow out of…
But I needed to get realistic. As other factors were being cancelled out, I knew I had to start accepting it. Because I needed to for him. He needed someone in his life who understands him completely—to be his voice. It was time to start looking at the world through his eyes and not mine.
And what a beautiful world it is.
It’s taken me so long to write this, and I don’t know why. Maybe it was out of protectiveness of him, or maybe because I knew I had a lot to learn before I could talk about it properly. But I’ve gotten to the stage where I want to talk about it. I want people to understand too.
Once I surpassed the denial and grieving stages, I was surprised by how ready I was. My eyes and mind were wide open, and I quickly learned Aiden’s world is a wonderful, magical place.
He’s now four years old and still non-verbal.
He's come on so much since the first time I told the doctor he wasn’t talking. He continues to surprise me every day by the things he does. However small they are, it’s big to us. I'm learning as he is learning. His journey is also my journey. I will never lose hope that he will one day have a speech breakthrough. I’ve accepted that he may never call me mama. That doesn’t matter. Just being his mum is enough for me.
This month, he will be officially diagnosed as a child with Autism by a psychologist and I’m happy about it. I know that sounds strange, but after such a long process, I finally feel like I can breathe. Getting that piece of paper means I will have an official answer and can take the next steps to ensure his life is as best it can be for him.
When some people see Aiden, they don’t know how to be around him. They see he's 'different' and so they act different. At first it upset me, but not anymore. I see a boy who is having the time of his life and doesn’t have time for people who aren’t on his level. So maybe get on it, because you might be surprised by how great it is.
Aiden is like any other little boy. Being autistic doesn’t define who he is as a person. You see, like all children, he loves playing too. He’s funny, loving and affectionate. He's well-behaved, loves the outdoors, slides and bubbles. Mickey Mouse is still his favourite cartoon, and he could sit for hours watching Formula 1 racing.
I’m not saying I don’t have bad days. I’m not saying there aren’t days where I feel lost, lonely and miles away from other parents. Days where I feel completely hopeless as a mother and stressed to the max. Days where I cry because I’m anxious about his future. That I will fail him…
I’m learning to take each day as it comes. I don’t know what the future will bring or what life Aiden will grow to have. But whatever it is, wherever we are, I’ll be there for him and with him. My family will be there for him. We’ll try our best to make sure he has everything he needs, no matter what.
What a wonderful adventure it will be.
I’m a mother to a child with autism and I couldn’t be prouder.