My Son and I – Mala’s Story
Mala shares the story of her son growing up and being diagnosed with ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome:
Welcome to the World
I was so excited to have my firstborn son and meet him for the first time. He was late coming into the world and was just very comfortable. The birth was a little traumatic and I had to have a c-section. He came out, all limbs and long eyelashes which the nurses were so envious of. A day later, he was examined by the paediatrician and was already trying to lift his head. The doctor said, “This one is going to be an active one, watch out!”. We laughed and thought, “I wouldn’t have it any other way”.
Luckily for me, I had a lot of support. Not only did my mum come over to stay with me for a few months, but after she left I had a wonderful group of NCT, and a post-natal group of mums who quickly became very good friends. We each took turns in hosting coffee playdates for our sanity, shared milestones and supported each other through our struggles as first-time mums.
He’s a Bit Different
As the months went on, I couldn’t help but notice my son definitely wanted to do more physically than the others – he certainly kept me on my toes. I started comparing him to the other toddlers. His speech wasn’t developing but he was meeting physical milestones like shuffling, moving, and walking. My son was generally a fearless child. He wasn’t verbally expressing himself so he pushed, hit, and grabbed. I couldn’t relax and take my eyes off him when I took him to playgroups without the fear of him causing havoc with the other children.
He started going to the local nursery as I fell pregnant with my second son. Things got tough to manage and the reports I was getting from his nursery were that he wasn’t sharing or engaging with the other children; only when he wanted what they had was he interested in the interaction. After my second child was born, we moved him to our local preschool and the headmistress said that my son was not engaging with them or the other children. He wasn’t interested and didn’t understand instructions, he was just naughty. She said we may need to consult with a child psychologist to assess his behaviour.
New Chapter – Single Parent
My son was 4.5 years old when my marriage broke down and I moved out of our home to the London Borough of Hounslow, closer to my family. Fortunately, things fell into place with acceptance at schools, nursery and getting a place to rent. I was working part-time but the separation took its toll on my mental health and I was dismissed. Another blow, I thought, but everything happens for a reason, I comforted myself.
My son started his new school and that was going okay but I was called in to meet with the teachers pretty regularly. They suggested in Year 1 for a child psychologist to come in and observe him which I had agreed to as things were affecting us at home too. They put some strategies in place and I was also referred to a dietician to assess if food groups could be affecting his behaviour. We kept that up for another couple of years. Now he was in Year 3 when there was more structure and my son did not take this well which his behaviour highlighted.
I went to the GP toying with the dilemma of whether I should seek help or not. I booked an appointment and then cancelled it because things were okay and then got worse. It was certainly a roller coaster of emotions and conflict in my mind. I eventually plucked up the courage to ask my GP for help, who then wrote to the school and that started the ball rolling to get some help from Hounslow CAMHS. We were put on a waitlist and eventually got our appointment. After a few months of assessments, and back and forth with the school, my son was diagnosed with ADHD in Year 3, when he was 7 years old. Luckily I was put on a course on how to manage a child with this diagnosis and was advised on trialling medication for my son. I agreed even though I found it very hard to decide what the best option for him would be. To be honest, I’d rather not but I had to think of how this affects us as a family unit. It wasn’t easy.
Taking the Medication
I’m really glad I agreed to the medication as we all noticed a marked difference in my son’s behaviour. He was so much calmer and more engaging. His classmates started to like him a bit more as he wasn’t having meltdowns or fighting someone for something. His consultant at CAMHS said ADHD may not be the only diagnosis. Many children who have been diagnosed with ADHD may also have some underlying learning difficulties but he couldn’t say until the medication for ADHD was under control. Unfortunately, we had to move again and start all over with another CAMHS – London Borough of Merton. It took another couple of years before he was assessed. My son was 9.5 years old when we were told that he had a double diagnosis of ADHD and Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He is high functioning, also known as Asperger’s Syndrome. I was in a way relieved that a weight had been lifted off my shoulder. I always knew that my son was different, he saw the world differently and interpreted it in his way. I felt that now we could finally get some help and support for him. I could also get some help with educating myself on how to parent my son. Things make so much more sense after the diagnosis and helping him through it.
The Next Chapter
My son is now 18 years old and going to university to study Media in October. He’s managing very well. A lot has to be said of my issues around his diagnosis; I learnt to be a lot more patient and manage my frustrations, anger, resentments, and not feeling good or worthy enough. I’m definitely more relaxed as a single parent and I am grateful for the support I’ve received from so many groups like Asian Single Parents. I also help other parents with the coaching and the experience I have.