Stories From the Heart: The Big Cheese

I was quite relieved when I heard that my son had Autistic tendencies, when we had him assessed at 24 months. For a long time I had been feeling that everyone was missing the big picture.  I could see he was not developing as a normal 2 year old should be.

My Danny is now 17 years old and life is much easier. I can’t remember much of those early years. We had another son, Nicholas, when Danny was 18 months and another son, and a daughter, Gabriel, when he was nearly 5.

What I learned from Danny was patience and acceptance, our two other sons, especially Nicholas taught him just about everything else.

Danny is verbal and can talk a lot when he feels like it, as most Autistic children he has his obsessions and they have come and gone; Telletubbies, Thomas the Tank engine, computers. He now knows what is age appropriate and will ask us to leave a room when he is watching something meant for younger children.

He also knows now that it’s not good to take his clothes off at any time, and does not disappear from us at the speed of lightning. Shopping used to be a nightmare  and family holiday involved at least 1 frantic search as Danny would wander into anyone’s house inspect the fridge and make himself at home.

We live on a Game Reserve an hour from the nearest small town.  From a very young age Danny has walked around the reserve, free as a bird. Some days he would leave at 7 am and come back in the dark at around 10 pm. We have various animals including buffalo, white rhinos and elephants, and Danny says hello to them all as he walks past.  They seem to know he is no threat.  I have noticed that after a lot of physical activity Danny is calmer, talks more, and seems happier.

The hardest thing I have ever done has been sending Danny to school.  We are three hours from the nearest city that has a Special school and Danny started boarding there when he was 6. He did not talk for almost a year and cried every week end when we took him back. He still prefers to be at home, and keeps his school life and home life totally separate. He will not wear anything at home that he wears at school, or talk about friends or what he does there unless it’s something that worries him, like when his friend fell down the stairs.

I wanted to give Danny the chance to live away from us and to know that he could cope. For months it felt as if I had lost a limb, as a young child Danny felt like an extension of my body. Our other 2 sons are at boarding school and sending them was much easier.

Danny went through a stage of singing “Jesus Loves Me “ every time we sat down for a meal and making us pray before we ate.  He must have been around 9 or 10 at the time and I realized that this is what they were doing at school.  We have guest houses on the farm and Danny and his brothers came with me to clean one after the guests had left. We were unpacking the fridge and Danny grabbed a block of cheese and said “Cheesus loves you”.

I realized then that a lot of Danny’s life is spent doing stuff he does not fully understand, waiting for people to tell him what to do, and how to react to what’s going on.  I admire, respect him and love him to pieces!

By Kitty Viljoen

* Stories From the Heart is an ongoing series of user contributed heart warming stories, that shine light on the Autism and special needs experience.

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