A Bruce Willis movie helped me Diagnosed my Autistic son when the medical community failed me.
I am a mother of three incredible children with Autism and it has been a long journey to figure out how to take care of their different needs.
Autism manifest in different ways in each person however there are main traits that are generally the same. Nowadays I can spot a child on the spectrum easily after spending lots of time researching and of course living it. In the beginning I hadn’t heard of Autism , which left me at a disadvantage in being able to get it diagnosed. Even worse this was before Google existed!
When I was pregnant with my first son Ethan I was so sick with “morning sickness “ which lasted all day & night for 9 months, when it was time for him to enter our world I thought ( other than the normal troubles of a new mum ) I could rest and eat now after losing 10kg during the pregnancy . Since I’m writing this blog you can guess that didn’t happen !
Right from the start he screamed all of the time and never slept, when I say never slept I mean he did not sleep more than an hour a night and sometimes not all together either. Many nights I curled up under his cot crying myself, exhausted and confused. At first nurses and helpful friends would say it’s because I’m a new mum and I don’t know what I’m doing yet . I accepted this because yes I was a new mum ,I had never even baby sat a child before.
At two years old I took him to the so called sleep doctor in our city , without the doctor asking questions like … does he have other problems ? is there any development delays ? etc . The doctor didn’t check him over in anyway , all he saw was a child having a tantrum on the floor.
Actually he was having an autism meltdown. The meltdown is a common autistic characteristic feared and dreaded by both caregivers and autistics https://www.autism-causes.com/the-meltdown.html . I didn’t know any better or I would have asked questions. He went straight for the preconceived idea that I don’t know what I’m doing . His suggestion was to lock him in his room and let him cry it out until he falls asleep and If it was too hard to listen to him cry I should drink some red wine !
This was an interesting take on controlled crying which I had tried many times before. Safe to say I did not try this method. Children with autism have impaired function of the hormone melatonin, which is involved in governing the sleep-wake cycle . An abnormal sleep patter can come from other causes as well, such as medication side effects, too much stimulation at bedtime or medical disorders ranging from anxiety and epilepsy to restless legs syndrome and gastrointestinal problems. These problems are often associated with symptoms of autism , my daughter has epilepsy with her autism , two of my children have gastrointestinal, depression & Anxiety problems as a part of their autism. https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/wide-awake-why-children-with-autism-struggle-with-sleep/.
I didn’t find out that important information until many years later, I thought it was still me who was the was the problem. I went to the my doctor to give Ethan’s vaccinations, while I was in the waiting room as usually Ethan was running around , climbing over counters , getting upset not interested in the toys or other kids .
All of these issues are BIG RED FLAGS by the way, but nope he is “just an excitable kid “ normal apparently . I was told that what I needed to do is take control of him , be in charge or I can take the advised of random people in shops and smack his bottom. Autism is characterised by noticeable difficulties in behaviour, social interaction, communication and sensory sensitivities. Sitting in a small waiting room triggers all the characteristics. When I finely saw the doctor I explained how exhausting it is to take care of a little boy , I explained what has been happening since his birth .
Once again I was told this is normal even though at two years old Ethan is also still nonverbal ,( with nonverbal autism some do develop the ability to use a few words in a meaningful manner but are unable to carry on any kind of significant conversation. https://www.verywellhealth.com/what-is-nonverbal-autism-260032n. This is a great article I recommend going to Very Well Health and reading it )
The doctor who was well meaning suggested I’m depressed and gave me a written test to do . I came up as having depression , I told the doctor I wasn’t depressed in fact really happy ?? Later I worked out that being sleep deprived has many of the same symptoms. Unfortunately my words were dismissed, I was put on anti-depressants and It took years to get off them. Still Ethan is no closer to being diagnosed and I was still a failing mother.
I was at breaking point by 3 years old with a child who could expend energy faster than a hurricane and we still haven’t slept yet . I heard of some medicine you can give children to make them sleep once they have turned 3, so of I went to the chemist with hopes of sleep in our future . Instead i was met with disapproving looks and a scolding from the chemist owner who has 7 children who slept really well I’m guessing . I gave Ethan the medicine and wahoo it worked ! after a few nights I was able to watch a movie. Watching a movie is a big treat to any parent of a special needs child , it had been years since I could sit down for more than a few minutes at a time.
On the Tv a Bruce Willis movie was showing called Mercury Rising which is an action thriller film starring Bruce Willis who plays an undercover FBI agent who protects a 9-year-old autistic boy who is targeted by government assassins after he cracks a top secret government code. Really it would not have mattered which Bruce Willis movie it was because let’s face it he is my favourite hunky leading man. While watching this movie I saw the same traits that my son was showing, I even said to my then husband “omg that’s Ethan”. Everybody knows that other famous movie about rain man but that movie did not click with me because Dustan Hoffman’s character was further on the spectrum . Ethan was hitting his head the same way rain man does and when he does it is absolutely heart breaking when it happens.
After the medical community failed to help me and a Bruce Willis movie helped me Diagnosed my Autistic son, it was a such a strange and wonderful way to get that light bulb moment that changed our lives. I was able to take charge and armed with my new information from the movie I started the also very long journey to get someone in the medical profession to believe me. But That story is for another day , Bruce Willis not only saved the day in the movie ( of course ) he saved my child’s future.
It is imperative to get early intervention therapy as soon as possible, I believe because we had the chance to do this all of my children have blossomed beyond what they would have otherwise.
These are my talented , loving, amazing children Ethan, Emily and Euan.