Good Morning, my name is Ed Boone and my 15 year old son, Christopher, has Asperger’s Syndrome – which is a mild form of autism. I am here to talk with you today to give you all an insight as to what it is like having a child with autism, how it is difficult and my experiences. I am a single parent. My wife left me 2 years ago. I believe the continual stress of caring for Christopher ultimately broke up our marriage. I’m an ordinary man and I love my son- but it’s been difficult coping with a son who has so many behavioural problems.
The thing I find hardest is that my son does not like to be touched. I can never hug him to show him I love him. Whenever anyone touches him he gets upset and reacts violently. He has received a caution for hitting a policeman who grabbed his arm. Because of this, we’ve come up with our own little system where we stretch our fingers out into a fan and let our fingers and thumbs touch. This means that we love each other.
Another problem is that he screams when he is angry or confused and he smashes things. He has difficulty coping with everyday life and puts his hands over his ears, closes his eyes and curls into a ball. Most of the time, I try to remain calm and patient with him and keep my temper. But sometimes the frustration gets so overwhelming that I shout and swear at him. When the red mist takes over I admit that I get violent and often hit Christopher. This is the worst thing you can do, it achieves nothing, speaking with a councillor or a therapist has helped me to vent my frustration without feeling the need to take it out on my son.
Sometimes he will not eat or drink anything for a long time. This is quite alarming – He will not eat the food if different sorts of food are touching each other. I have to make sure that the foods are what he likes to eat and are served up so they don’t touch one another. If possible, I always make compromises to suit Christopher’s needs – It’s just the way it has to be, many parents in the neighbourhood are quick to label me as a bad parent, but this is simply not the case – They do not understand that once Christopher has made up his mind, it is near impossible to negotiate.
He does not like people shouting or laughing at him. He finds people confusing and he doesn’t like crowds. It takes him a long time to get used to people he doesn’t know. He doesn’t like being in really small places with other people.
One day his mother had to pick him up from school when the bus broke down. She was asked to take two other children home because their parents couldn’t come to get them. Christopher started screaming and got out of the car while it was still moving. He had to have stitches in his head after falling onto the road.
Christopher needs routines to help him deal with everyday life. I made him a time-table so he knows what is going to happen from the time he wakes up until he goes to sleep. He likes to know when everything is going to happen and gets upset by sudden changes. This solid, steady routine gives Christopher a sense of control and helps him to feel much more at ease.
Often Christopher decides not to talk to people for a long time and this is frustrating to deal with. Once he didn’t talk to anyone for 5 weeks. He has trouble understanding what people are saying. I try to tell him exactly what he is allowed or not allowed to do, and to be really specific. It is not enough to simply say ‘be quiet Christopher’ or ‘get your workbook out’ – you have to give him a specific timeframe how long he mustn’t talk for, or tell him which book to get out, and from where. He also struggles with words that have ambiguous meanings.
It hurts me to hear people teasing him, and calling him names – he may be different, but he is far from stupid, he is an extremely intelligent boy. He likes science and is really good at maths. He can work out the answers to complex maths problems in his head. If you ask him what 251×864 equals he can tell you. I am very proud of Christopher for scoring A on his Math A level exam.
The stress of looking after Christopher caused my wife Judy and I to argue violently. She became depressed and couldn’t cope any more. That bitch left us to live with Roger Shears, and ever since then I have been left to look after Christopher alone. Eileen Shears helped me through this difficult time until we argued and she too threw me out. To be honest I think she cared more for her bloody dog than me or Christopher. So when it bit me I saw red and killed it. I let out everything I had been bottling up for 2 years.
I then kept the truth from Christopher. I lied to him about killing the dog and his mother. This was the biggest mistake I have made in my entire life – to Christopher, nothing is more important than the truth. Although I was trying to protect him by telling him his mother was dead, he couldn’t see this. He wouldn’t talk to me and screamed when he saw me. The look on his face made me feel as though the fork I had used to kill the dog had been driven right through my heart. It was at that moment I knew I had lost my relationship with my son.
I need more than anything for him to trust me, I recently bought him a Golden Retriever because he loves and trusts dogs. He also helped me make a vegetable garden in the backyard. I told him I would never, ever do anything to hurt him, though I am not sure how much my word counts for. I told him that we had to spend more time together like completing a ‘project’.
I am going to take it one day at a time and do the best I can for Christopher without looking too far into the future. This is something you can only truly understand, and comprehend when you are in the situation, although the journey is tough, with everyday simple tasks being a struggle – I wouldn’t have it any other way, I love my son and will stick by him and care for him, I hope to one day gain Christopher’s trust back, no matter how long this takes.
I would like to thankyou all for listening, and I hope that you’ve gained something from this presentation.