Eight years ago I was preparing to give birth to my first child, and one of the many things I had to consider was welcoming this small person into my home.There are so many bits of kit that come with having a child, the list is endless and it starts to build up around your once stylish pad.
The one thing I never considered was 'what if my child is born disabled?'. Of course you don't ask yourself this terrifying question, or if you do it may only be fleetingly. I was 20-years-old when I fell pregnant with my son Joel, and disability never crossed my mind.
Nothing could prepare me for the journey I was about to embark on, we were going off the map. I should have just binned all the parenting books I had bought there and then.
I'm not writing this to tell you how awful it is to raise a child like Joel, it's pretty stressful, but I want this article to be informative about how you can adapt your home.
If your reading this and you, too, have an autistic child, some of it may ring true and if you know somebody looking after a child with autism perhaps this may help them.
A big problem in my home is and was safety. Joel likes to escape out of windows and doors and on one occasion I found him teetering on the edge of his bedroom windowsill, with a 20 foot drop below him. Not good.
I was informed about Homecheck at my local council in Portsmouth who will come and assess your home and fit safety equipment free of charge. It may be worth checking your local authority offers a similar service.
I also fitted my fridge and freezer with locks to stop Joel eating the contents of both. Most safety equipment is well designed and discreet. Although, I do remember returning home one night and the child minder exclaiming she didn't know how to open the fridge - like I said, these things are discreet!
Another great tip which my partner discovered which really works is applying Blu Tack to the back of mirrors, pictures and under lamps and ornaments. If your child enjoys sweeping objects this can prevent them from trying again after they have failed, unless they are determined, in which case maybe super glue would help? Believe me I have felt like super gluing the contents of my home to the walls, floors and shelves!
Other amazing things I have discovered are Dulux Endurance - a tough, wipe-clean paint which works well for bedrooms especially when you have a smearer at home. I've also found that wool carpets are the longest lasting and easiest to clean. But, if carpet is too much to look after, go for a good, quality laminate as my friends with autistic children have reported their kids pulling the laminate up, or picking it to pieces.
It's important to keep in mind, however, that not all autistic children are this destructive. My son is at the very severe end of the spectrum and he also has a profound learning disability with global delay - he didn't walk till he was two and is still in nappies. He has steadily improved and is no longer so destructive but this may change when the dreaded hormones kick in!
Going With the Flow...
I have broken down on many occasions when I feel the home I have worked so hard to maintain can be decimated in a few hours. I am not particularly house proud and have learnt to just go with Joel's flow. We quite often have to warn friends and relatives that Joel can be 'energetic' before we visit there homes. If they take this advice it makes our visit welcoming and relaxing, while on the other hand some hosts have just appeared to be terrified.
My biggest tip of all is simply 'don't stress'. What is dirty can be cleaned and what is broken can be replaced... unless it's a priceless family heirloom, in which case hide it in the loft!
For more help and advice on coping with autism visit Ambitious about Autism and the National Autistic Society.
Photo courtesy of oftenhover.co.uk